No, this is not a math equation. (Okay, it is, but that’s not the point here). We’re talking about behaviors and noticing them. Take a minute and think about your child. Think about the last time they did something good or nice. Perhaps they put away a book without you telling them, or took something to the trash instead of throwing it on the floor. Perhaps they helped a friend find their lost toy, or they gave the last blue cupcake with sprinkles to their friend because blue was their favorite color. Now here’s the thing: Did you say something to them about it? You know what your kid hears more than any other word? No. We tell them more often what not to do than we do what TO do. I bet it gets really tiring hearing the word ‘no’. Want you kid to listen more? Say yes.
The best gift you can give your child is telling them what they can do, and what they do already do well. More than anything, your child wants your love, attention and approval. I bet you hear ‘Watch me!’ at least 10 times a day. I know I do. You child wants to know that you like what they are doing. That you think they are clever, and quick, and fast. They don’t want you to keep telling them what not to do, or that what they are doing is bad. The trick is to tell them what is good in a better and more appealing way than when you have to tell them what not to do. Does that make sense? Beyond just saying ‘Nice job,’ which is a generic vanilla-type response, a Haagen Daaz ‘I really like how you did x, y, and z. It made me realize how well you understand ____’ will make an impact. They will want to give you more of the same. More of the same means more positive behaviors. And, really, who couldn’t use more positive behaviors?
The thing about noticing positive behaviors is this: there will be more of them coming from your child, A, and also, you will start noticing more of them in everyday interactions. It will give you a more positive view of your child, and your interactions. The more you do this, the easier it will be. I admit, at first, it may feel a tad forced. But it will come. It sort of like when you are in a really foul mood, and you try to fake a smile, knowing that if you fake a smile, it will soon turn into a real one. If you fake the positive responses, very soon they will feel – and be – real.
Please don’t think I am telling you to just compliment everything your child is doing. This is not effective. Specific comments about specific actions requires focusing on your child and their behaviors. By focusing on their behaviors – especially positive behaviors – you will grow to view your child in a more positive light.