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Catching Kids Being Good

If you've ever taken a family dog through obedience training, you know the power and importance of praise in encouraging positive behavior. Praise is helpful not only for pets, but also for children. When parents consistently practice acceptance, approval and appreciation, they help their children grow into responsible, successful and confident adults.

The first step to using praise to reinforce your child's good behavior is learning to catch him or her doing good.

Every day, children do good things that parents often overlook - dressing themselves, asking permission to do something or go somewhere with friends, and playing, reading or watching television quietly. Unfortunately, it's natural, and sometimes easier, to inadvertently ignore positive behavior and react to negative behavior. That's why most adults tend to notice when kids do bad things far more often than they recognize good behavior. 

So, get in the habit of looking for your children's positive behaviors. If you notice your teenager doing homework or your two young children playing well together, take a moment to say something specific like "Thanks for getting your homework done" or "I like how you and your sister are playing together." 

Opportunities for Approval
When you ask your child to do something, make sure you recognize his or her compliance. Select a few 20-minute periods throughout the day when you intentionally focus on looking for your children to follow your instructions. When they do, praise their good behavior with enthusiasm. Consistent, specific and immediate praise for good behavior is a powerful and effective way to show your child your approval. These actions and words can all be used to praise your child:

  • Frequent hugs, smiles and pats on the back
  • "I am proud of you."
  • "You did a great job!"
  • "Way to work hard."

Other Ways to Praise
Tangible rewards are another excellent way to praise a child for good behavior. A special treat or activity, like going on a bike ride with Mom or reading a book with Dad, is a great way to reinforce positive behavior. Use verbal praise and physical touch most often, but mix in tangible rewards on occasion to show your children that you recognize and appreciate their good behavior.

Offer praise often, to the tune of five praise statements or actions for positive behavior for every one negative behavior that you correct. As you consistently "catch" your child being good, you'll find yourself being more positive around him or her. In time, you should notice your child using more positive behaviors as a result.