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Parenting Principles - issue​​​​1234​5

Offering Effective Praise

It’s easy to pay attention to your children when they’re misbehaving. After all, when they’re acting up, ​​you immediately ​notice (which may be why they’re acting up in the first place). But research shows they’ll improve their behavior quicker — and be less likely to tune you out — if you also “catch them being good.”

The trick is to look for, identify and praise good behavior frequently and consistently. Unlike obvious bad behavior, you may not notice good behavior as much. This requires a little more work on your part, but trust us, it’s worth it.

For example, if your child has issues with hitting or kicking, you might give praise this way when he/she uses appropriate behavior:

  • Thank you for keeping your hands and feet to yourself.
  • Thank you for using your words instead of hitting or kicking.
  • I like how you are being gentle.

Giving praise strengthens the relationship between children and parents because children start to recognize that their parents also see the positive things they do, not just the negatives. That’s why we recommend that you praise your child four times for every one time you correct him/her.

Additionally, try to take note of small improvements in behaviors you have asked your children to work on. Don’t necessarily wait for a huge milestone, like bringing home an “A” on a test in a particular subject. Instead, praise them when they bring home a test with an improved score or a project with positive comments from the teacher.

Over time, you can decrease your praise of specific behaviors as they become second nature for your child. This is known as “fading.” As you fade your positive recognition of certain behaviors, you can find others to praise.

Delivering effective praise requires additional effort on your part as a parent; you need to be observant to “catch them being good.” It also takes time and patience. But your efforts will be rewarded as your children gradually reduce their negative behaviors and replace them with positive actions.

Teaching Activity

Building Self-Worth

To build your child's sense of self-worth, try these activities at home:

  1. Time-In Fun: “Tip” your child with lots of 5- or 10-minute “time-in” activities. Time-in is the opposite of time-out; it’s the good stuff your child enjoys or likes to do. Put a token in a jar each time you give a tip to remind you how much time-in time your child has earned each day.
  2. Goodie Vouchers: Build your child's sense of accomplishment by giving him/her age-appropriate chores, activities and learning tasks. Every time he/she accomplishes one of these, place one “goodie voucher” under your child's pillow at night. These rewards don’t have to cost anything; they can be as simple as a promise of time with and attention from loved ones later.
  3. Memory Mosaics: Create a gallery of good memories on your child's bedroom wall or in the family room where ​everyone can see it. Your child can use photos or drawings to represent these positive memories. Update the mosaic each week with images that focus on good behavior.
  4. Love Notes: Leave a few notes (stickers, cards) of praise each week in places where your child will find them.

Parenting Strategy

Giving Effective Praise

Giving effective praise isn’t difficult; the effort comes in trying to find something to praise amid the negative behaviors your child might be displaying. You must constantly be on the lookout to catch your child being good. Once you do, you can simply follow these steps:

  1. Show approval (say “Good job!” or give a hug).
  2. Describe the positive behavior.
  3. Give a reason for using the behavior.
  4. Give a positive consequence (optional).

Teaching Children How to Protect Themselves

As a parent, you cannot be with your child 24/7. This becomes even more true as they grow older and become involved in more activities outside the home. To protect them from the many threats and dangers they’ll face, you need to arm them with the ability to protect themselves when you are not around.

One of the greatest threats your child will face when he/she is not around you is peer pressure to engage in negative or harmful behaviors (doing something dangerous, taking drugs, cheating, engaging in criminal behavior, etc.). One fundamental way to reduce the influence peer pressure can have on children is to help them develop a positive moral foundation early on so they intuitively know what is right and what is wrong. You can accomplish this by teaching social skills and modeling positive moral behaviors yourself. Then, you may want to reinforce this teaching/modeling with spiritual or religious instruction.

In addition to negative peer pressure, children will experience societal pressures to achieve positive goals — getting straight “A’s,” making the sports team, scoring high in a music competition or getting into a good college, for instance. You can empower your child by teaching coping skills that will help him/her effectively deal with stressful, pressure-filled situations. You should also try to maintain a strong, supportive relationship with your child by talking often and keeping the lines of honest communication open.

Children can be incredibly resilient, but they can also be quite vulnerable at times. They look to their parents for cues about how to handle potentially dangerous situations. This is why it is so important for parents to model positive behaviors for ​them.

Teaching Activity

Practice Resisting Peer Pressure

This is a role-play activity for you and your child or teen. Think of several scenarios in which your child might be pressured into engaging in negative behaviors. Then, act out a scenario where you and your child play specific roles. For instance, you could play an older child who is trying to get your child to smoke marijuana. Or, you could pretend to be a younger child encouraging your child to try something dangerous. Before beginning the role-play, go over the steps of the social skill, “Resisting Peer Pressure”:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Use a calm, assertive voice tone.
  3. State clearly that you do not want to engage in the inappropriate activity.
  4. Suggest an alternative activity. Give a reason.
  5. If the person persists, continue to say “No.”
  6. If the peer will not accept your answer, ask him/her to leave, or remove yourself from the situation.

Parenting Strategy

Preventive Teaching

To help your child resist negative peer pressure and avoid other potentially dangerous situations, you must preventively teach social skills he/she can use. Teaching these skills ahead of time, and modeling them yourself, prepares your child to do the right thing when real-life situations occur.

Social Skills for Younger Children
Social Skills for Older Children

Here are ​the steps for using preventive teaching to teach skills:

  1. Describe the desired behavior (skill).
  2. Give a reason for using the behavior (skill).
  3. Practice.

Coming up in Issue 3

Preparing Children for Real-Life Situations


Practicing SODAS with Your Teen


Corrective Teaching

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