Changing children’s negative behaviours into positive ones

Do some of your child’s behaviours drive you bonkers?

Are you paying attention to the same negative behaviours day in and day out? And then you find yourself saying to your child “why do you never listen to me, how many times do I have to tell you?”.

Well, I’ll tell you a secret… your child will continue to do the behaviours that you pay attention to. There is 40 years of research that says if you pay attention to the behaviours you want to see in your child, he or she will do more of them.

Child not listening? Praise him for when he does listen. “Thanks mate, you really listened to me and it made it easier for both of us.” Child not speaking nicely? Notice when she does speak nicely. “You spoke so nicely when you spoke to your sister about that, you were very kind.” And so on. But you have to change your view and be alert to seeing the positive behaviours in your child, and praise it when you see it every single time.

However, saying “good boy” or “good girl” doesn’t tell your children what they are doing well, and encourages sibling rivalry because children start to vie for their parents’ attention.

Be specific – Tell your child exactly what you liked about what he did “Thanks for putting your washing in the basket, it really helps me.”.

Keep it positive – Say “I appreciate you walking through the house” rather than “thanks for not running”.

Be genuine, say it when you mean it – Praise should always be genuine.

Encourage new activities – Praise children for their effort and hard work, not for their talents (being smart, clever, beautiful). Praise kids for trying new things and for not being afraid to make mistakes,

Focus on the process It’s the process, not the product that matters. “You really put a lot of effort into that project”, tells your child that you recognise the value of his or her hard work and efforts, Not all our kids will go to the Olympics, get a PhD in nuclear physics, or play violin for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, but children who learn to work hard and persevere have a sense of pride in who they are and what they do, and they bounce back quicker when they experience disappointment or bad luck.

And if they get it wrong? Well they are only young. Ask them for a “do-over” (example: “how could you have said that in a kinder way?”) and praise them for getting it right. And remember that a hug, smile, nod, and wink goes a long way too.

Narelle Smith


Categories: Encouraging Desirable Behaviour, Managing Mistaken Behaviour


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