It is easy to fall into a habit of sometimes noticing every single thing that our child does “wrong”, does not do “properly”, or does not do as quickly as we would like! This can be especially true if we are not feeling our best for some reason or have had a previous argument with our child and we’re still not feeling that well towards them!
The result can be a very negative atmosphere in the family and a lot of bickering and frustration for parents and children alike.
To avoid this situation and replace it with a far more pleasant one, you need to:
- Ensure that you have appropriately dealt with any issue of past bad or poor behaviour by your child (see Rules, Consequences and Follow Through)
- Quickly move on from any past upset or disagreement – what’s past is past.
- Be alert to everything (big or small) good or helpful that the child is doing and give them Effective Praise for it and, if appropriate, Reward your child too.
Whether, as a parent, we tend to first notice negative behaviour or tend to first notice positive behaviour in our children makes a big difference to parenting and how children and parents feel about themselves and towards each other.
It is, of course, essential that parents establish and enforce clear rules to govern and control their children’s behaviour. Children need these to feel secure and to know what is expected of them.
But, this said, it is also true that children will display more of the sort of behaviour that their parents pay attention to: if their parents notice and praise the good things they do, children will respond to this and keep doing the good things, because they know they will receive positive parental attention for it. The reverse is also true though: if all that parents comment on or pay attention to is poor behaviour, children will misbehave more, because for most children they want and need their parent’s attention and if it can’t be positive attention (i.e. Praise) they will accept negative attention rather than no attention at all. This is often called “The Attention Principle” or “The Attention Rule”.
So, consider how many positive and negative comments you make to your child(ren) each day and, if you feel that you do tend to first notice what children do wrong, instead really focus on catching your child being good, praising them and seeing the positive differences it makes!