…when your child is doing something RIGHT! We often think about and are told how to react when a child does something wrong, but let’s focus first on the opposite. Let’s think of purposeful things we can do when our child is doing something appropriate.
First off, kids need our feedback to let them know they’re on the right track. A couple ways to give that feedback are through: Behavior Specific Praise & Being Amazed.
Behavior Specific Praise (BSP) is just that, praising a specific behavior. Instead of words like “good job” or “awesome” we can give them more specific feedback that they can use the next time they’re in that situation. For example, a kid picks up her toys and we say “nice job picking up your toys.” Not very specific and the child might not know how to replicate that next time. Rather, we could say “Wow, you just put all of your toys back in the right spot. That’s amazing!” You could go into more detail if you’d like (“you put the cars in the car bin, and the dolls in the doll box”).
Giving kids BSP is like a mini training session. We are training them to do a behavior a certain way. “Nice, you just spread shampoo all over your hair..even here at the end!” or “I like how you turned off the lights when you weren’t using them”. These tidbits of knowledge guide the child towards behaviors we’d like to see more of.
Do we have to give BSP after every behavior? No way! That would be too much and would not be as sincere. I like to give specific praise 4-5 out of 10 times when a child is learning something new, and then fade it down to 1/10 once the skill has been mastered.
The funny thing about this form of feedback is that a child will start to think about their behavior in these terms. They will say things like “Mommy, I just sat so patiently in the Doctor’s office” or “I played quietly by myself for the past 10 minutes!” They will focus on their positive behaviors as well, on behaviors we’ve shown them to have more meaning.
Now one last thing about BSP, the kid’s behavior isn’t going to be perfect. Like the shampoo example above, if the kid is just learning a behavior we are going to find the positive! Maybe she didn’t get the shampoo all the way out to her tips but you can assist her in getting it there and then we give her all the credit. We are helping them be successful (not so they have less of a workload) so that the next time they will know what’s expected.
Being Amazed is so much fun to do with kids and they eat it up! Often when parents are at the dinner table with their kids, the focus is mainly on what the kid isn’t eating. “Eat your food” “Take 3 more bites…ok 2 more bites…ok 1 more bite.” “No dessert unless you finish your dinner.” It’s almost like a battle every night at the dinner. Like a pattern has formed and we don’t know how to get out of it.
In our house, rather than focusing on what our kid isn’t eating…we only focus on what she IS eating. We’ve been playing this game since she was just under 2 years old (she’s now 4) and she still gets a kick out of it every time. While she’s eating or done eating, I’ll look around confused…I’ll look under the table, on/under her plate. Then I’ll ask: “Umm…where did her food go?” The whole time she is pointing at her mouth or tummy with a silly grin on her face. I pretend to be shocked that she ate all of her food. We all laugh and we carry on with our dinner.
Do I do something like that at every meal? Nope! Every so often, maybe every few weeks I might do something similar. At the beginning though it was more often, like the 4-5 out of 10 opportunities like I stated before. As a little girl, she loves the attention and she knows that when she eats her food there is a consequence…a good consequence! We never had to lecture her about eating and pressuring her to eat more. She just eats!
This is just one example, but you can be amazed at their behavior throughout the day. “How did you know how to share your toys like that!?” “Where did you learn how to color inside the lines like that!?” These may seem like games, but they are very purposeful. We play these “games” for a present and future outcome. Whatever the behavior, we can be amazed by positive aspects and show our children that those are the aspects we expect and want to see in the future.