Catch Them Being Good
It seems to be in our nature to notice the bad. Whether we’re cataloguing the things we would change about ourselves, the mistakes we have made, or why life isn’t perfect, we have no problem focusing on the negative in our lives and what’s not working.
This same tendency rears its head when it comes to parenting, too. What do most parents do when they see their kids playing well, either alone or together? Usually it’s to heave a sigh of relief, then tip-toe away to throw in a load of laundry or get dinner started. But what happens as soon as the kids start fighting? We’re in there like a shot, getting involved and giving the children our attention. Is it any wonder, then, that kids fight dirty when it comes to getting attention from us, by hitting and screaming and yelling and fighting? We’re teaching them that when things are good, we slip away quietly…but when they’re bad, we’re right in the thick of things.
This is unfortunate because kids tend to repeat whatever behaviour works for them. If they get your attention by fighting with each other, they’ll keep doing it. But the opposite is also true: the more attention we put on the things they’re doing that are positive, the more they’ll continue to do those things, too.
Too often we don’t take this step. If we’ve been nagging our son to empty the dishwasher, for example, we often feel a sense of relief – “Finally!” – when he actually does it, but we don’t say anything to him about it. He then thinks that it’s not worth it to make the effort to do as he’s asked. Nobody notices when he does something right, he thinks, so he might as well not bother putting the effort out to do the right thing. It’s discouragement at its most basic, and it’s really easy to fix. A sincere “Thanks for unloading the dishwasher – it means a lot to me that you did it without me having to ask over and over again,” said with a smile and perhaps a hug, goes a long way toward fostering those good feelings we’re trying to promote in our kids, and sending the message to them that it’s worth it to do that same behaviour again.
Catching our kids being good isn’t that difficult. We probably notice all sorts of positive traits and behaviours throughout the day; we just don’t think to share them. Everyone needs to feel appreciated and as though they matter to someone else. You are the most important person in the world to your children, so when they know that you notice the great stuff they’re doing or the great people they’re becoming, it means the world to them.
It’s easy to get discouraged when all you hear is “no,” “don’t do that,” “not like that,” or “here, let me help you”. If we really do reap what we sow, then it’s important to sow the seeds that we would like to see flourish and blossom into flowers. Instead of consistently putting our attention to what they’re doing wrong or what’s not working, make an effort to focus on the positive instead, and to catch them being good. By using the principle of “what you think about, you bring about,” we can increase our family harmony and cooperation, and encourage our children, which is the best example of catching them being good.