A positive parenting approach is the most effective way to encourage more desirable behaviors from your child. Through modeling and empathy your child will feel understood and more encouraged to exhibit behaviors that align with the expectations of the home. This approach focuses on giving your child attention when he/she behaves well, rather than just disciplining or applying consequences when undesirable behavior occurs.
Model the Expectations of the Home
Children are hardwired for positive attention and emotional connection. The best way to model behaviors and language for your child is to be sure to have one on one time with your child. Try to spend at least 15 minutes with each child each day.
Use your own behavior and language to guide your child. For example, if you want your child to manage his or her own temper, be sure you demonstrate ways you regulate yourself. If you want your child to say “please” or other polite manners, be sure you are also using this language.
Praise the Positive
Kids want to please their parents and kids want their parents to be proud of them. Whenever your child is not misbehaving (which probably occurs more than not) be sure to praise them. For example, if siblings who normally bicker are playing quietly to build a tower, “I really love the way the two of you are working together to build this.”
Whenever kids don’t receive praise or positive attention, they are more likely to seek out attention in negative ways.
Acknowledge the Big Feelings
Most often than not, misbehavior occurs when a child has a big emotion and has difficulty putting into words how he/she feels or if the child feels like she/he is not being understood. To use the above example, the siblings are building a tower and it falls to the ground and one starts to cry, “You are really upset about the tower falling, you worked hard to make it. I wonder if we can build it again or even better this time!”
Try Positive Redirection
Catch yourself saying “don’t” and see if you can replace it with “please” followed by what you want the child to do. For example, instead of saying “Don’t chew with your mouth open” try “Please chew with your mouth closed.”
Keep in mind you don’t always have to correct every behavior. Some behavior will be corrected through natural consequences. If you say “no”, be sure to be consistent and stick to that answer. See our article on how to ignore misbehavior if a child persists after being told no.
The Source of the Misbehavior
This is the most important thing for parents to understand; what need/desire is the child attempting to meet by this misbehavior? For example, if you are replying to work emails and your child keeps trying to race his toy cars on your desk, is he telling you he needs more quality time with you? Is your child throwing a fit over the shirt you picked for her to wear because she wanted to make the choice and feel independent? By understanding the cause of the misbehavior, a parent can turn it into a teaching moment. “You wanted to make your own choice of what to wear. How can we do that differently next time?”
Kids want to do well if they can. If they’re not, something is getting in their way or the demands being placed on them exceed their ability to cope.
Create a fun, safe environment for your child to thrive. Play with them and let them lead the play, or have a family game night. Use songs, humor, and a playful attitude when spending time with your kids. When your child enjoys time with you, you’ll find yourself enjoying your child even more.
We Can Help!
At Sunny Path Counseling, your therapist can help you to encourage positive behaviors and eliminate undesireable behaviors through parent consultation sessions. Our goal is to help families thrive and enjoy each other. See our Services page to get started.