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"Perfect Angels"

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I came across a National Post article I cut from the paper many moons ago,entitled Perfect Angels.  It was written by Alan E. Kazdin, who is a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University (so he should know what he's talking about!).  In the article, he describes how research continues to show that punishment is NOT effective when it comes to changing behaviour, and how the only method that has been consistently shown to bring about lasting change is the use of positive reinforcement. 

Here's an example from the article of what he's talking about:

Whenever you see the child do what you would like, or even do something that's a step in the right direction, you not only pay attention to that behaviour, but you praise it in specific, effusive terms. "You were angry at me, but you just used words. You didn't hit or kick, and that's great!" Add a smile or a touch -- a hug, a kiss, a pat on the shoulder. Verbal praise grows more effective when augmented via another sense.

Now, in Democratic Parenting terms, what he actually means is to provide verbal encouragement as opposed to verbal praise, but despite the difference in language, the suggestion for parents' behaviour is the same.  By focusing on concrete, specific actions your child has taken, by recognizing them and the effort your child is making toward change, we encourage a real sense of accomplishment and pride in our children -- and let's face it, we all do better when we feel good about ourselves.

I'd never heard of Dr. Kazdin before, but I'm interested in checking out his books, The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child and The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, which was published this past June.  Has anyone else read either of them?

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Andrea Ramsay Speers • Psychotherapist & Parent Coach • Oakville Family Institute • 175 Glenashton Dr., Oakville ON • Tel.: 905-491-6949

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