For the past week or two, I’ve published little snippets of discipline strategies as ideas or even reminders for us all. With summer here (and school out), I’ve found myself needing to re-evaluate our “game plan” at home and set some ground rules. Being consistent and clear in directions, and providing meaningful and effective consequences can establish the groundwork for a good, solid relationship with your child. It is equally important to give your child plenty of praise. Catching them being good, and letting them know about it, can be just as effective, if not moreso than many other forms of discipline.
There are several ways to show children that their behavior is exactly what is expected. The easiest and most direct way is simply by telling them. “Thank you for putting your dishes in the sink” or “I like the way you cleaned up your Legos without being asked” lets the child know that their behavior is on the mark and you, as the adult, have noticed. Children will want to hear this again and again, and so the positive behavior will repeat as often as you acknowledge it.
In addition to verbally telling a child about their good behavior, adults can also provide a physical “reward”. Hugs, a pat on the back, high-fives or even a nudge can be just the thing to let a child know they’ve done the right thing. In our house, these work especially well with our eight year-old, who doesn’t necessarily want to bring the attention of others to how proud his mom is! We have a secret “squeeze” that we share when I want to compliment him, yet I don’t want to completely embarrass him in front of his pals.
It is okay to reward your child with other things as well. Perhaps a walk together through the neighborhood, reading a book together, or even taking a special outing is just the way to show how proud you are of your child. If your child spent the afternoon cleaning their room, why not enjoy it together with a board game (now that the floor is clean!) or a book together?
And, while material rewards shouldn’t be used all the time, they can be beneficial, especially when a new behavior is being learned. Our three year-old has struggled with himself over potty training until we introduced Pez. While I’m not big on food as a reward, the cute dispensers are perfect for him, and he only takes one candy per potty-trip. It has been a HUGE incentive to getting him on track in the bathroom! Another idea might be to keep a chart of successes, and when a behavior has been achieved a certain number of times, the child can earn a small toy or special treat. Our older son had a hard time learning to stay in bed, so we kept a bedtime chart. Each night that he stayed in his bed, he earned a sticker on his chart. After ten stickers, he was rewarded with a trip to the Dollar Store, and after 100, we bought him an extra-special toy. By then, the behavior of staying in bed had been learned and we were ALL much happier!
Look for the good in your child and let them know about it. Praising a child for their good behavior is a great way to reinforce things you want to see in them again!