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valentines day parent

February can be a bleak, forgettable month. Winter still holds most of us in its icy grip and we're still a good month or two away from spring weather. And while we do have Groundhog Day and Presidents' Day, if we're really being honest, those are two holidays that are awfully hard to celebrate.

But then there's Valentine's Day. Stuck right in the middle of the month (or pretty close if it's a Leap Year), it's an occasion for expressing the love and affection we feel for those we hold dear in our lives. Most people equate Valentine's Day with the romantic love adults have for their significant others. At Boys Town, we think it can be much more than that. In fact, we believe Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to make your kids feel loved, valuable and special, and that the spirit of the holiday can last for the whole month of February.

Let's face it:  We live in a time and a culture where negative news stories fill the 24/7 news cycle, negative comments dominate our social media platforms and the world in general seems to be become more and more negative with each passing day. A perfect way to combat all these downers may be for parents to devote an entire month to lifting up their kids with attention and praise for good behavior and then enjoying the positive ways the kids respond.   

A great man once said, "Often it has been said that youth is the nation's greatest asset. But it is more than that — it is the world's greatest asset. More than that, it is perhaps the world's only hope."

This great man was Father Edward J. Flanagan, who founded Boys Town more than 100 years ago and in doing so, launched a mission that continues today with a focus on helping boys and girls to become good citizens by praising their good behaviors.

Giving your kids positive praise and Valentine's Day can easily go hand in hand. You're simply setting aside time to recognize your kids for who they are and for the good things they do. Often, we focus so much on correcting children for what they do wrong that we forget to recognize all the things they do right. When kids consistently hear a negative voice and a negative tone, they can easily start to believe they can't do anything right. One of the best ways to prevent that situation and build your child's self-confidence and self-esteem is to give a voice to positive praise.  

This is not an "everyone gets a medal just for participating" approach; instead, it's a "let's reward our kids for behaviors we want them to use" approach. As caring parents, we can change our mindset and lay the groundwork for a generation of adults who choose to do good, choose to be positive and choose to make the world a better place. 

So here's your parenting challenge:  Celebrate a month of valentines, 28 days of special somethings that will make your child feel extra loved!

To do this at our house, my husband and I use something Boys Town calls a "Praise Box." A Praise Box is a little container that goes on your child's bedroom door to provide a daily reminder that you should focus on their positive behaviors. Click here to order your Praise Box from Boys Town.

Here's how it works:

  1. Have your child personalize their Praise Box by coloring and labeling it with their name.
  2. Have your child hang the box on their bedroom door.
  3. Whenever you catch your child being good, give verbal praise. Then write down your praise statement on a card and put it in the box.
  4. At the end of the day, go through the cards with your child and have them count all the good things they did.

At our house, we've made this process a nightly ritual. After dinner, my husband and I take a few minutes to think of at least three things our kids did during the day that we are grateful for and that are worthy of praise. Often, they're very simple things that typically might fly under our radar. For example, yesterday, I put a note in my daughter's Praise Box about her hanging up her coat in the closet when she got home from school. Now, this is something that rarely happens and it can be incredibly annoying to come home from work every day and have to pick up coats from the floor. So, while it's a little thing, I want to make sure I recognize how great it is when it happens so that it will continue to happen and eventually become a habit. My husband also drops his own notes in the Praise Box. Then, right before bed, my kids take their boxes off their bedroom doors and we all sit down to read about the positive things they did that day.

What a great way to wrap up the day and what a wonderful feeling for kids to take with them as they drift off to asleep! It boosts their self-esteem, puts a smile on their face and reinforces our work as parents. And best of all, it requires very little effort, making it the best kind of parenting tool!

So get a Praise Box and take on the heartfelt "Valentine's Day Parenting Challenge" by making every day in February one that's praiseworthy for your kids! Then continue that positive approach all through the year!