The power of positive attention

Parents can use the power of attention to shape their children's behavior.

Attention is powerful! Children need and want attention from parents. Parents can use the power of attention to change and shape children’s behavior. Giving positive attention and praise on a regular basis will increase behaviors you like and want to see more. Many parents understand this concept but actually doing it regularly can be challenging. Michigan State University Extension offers programs for parents on positive praise and discipline, but here is an idea to help you start.

Create three lists by watching your child/children’s behaviors (acts you can see and hear). Put the behaviors you observe in one of the following three categories: behavior you like, behavior you dislike and behavior that is intolerable. After three to four days of practicing this sorting you have a great list in all three categories.

Begin by reviewing the list of behavior you like. Start to increase affirming these behaviors with your child by praising that action. The more specific or descriptive you are, the better their response. For example, if your child picked up their room without you asking, you should reference specific tasks they did. You can tell tham that you like that they picked up all their clothes and put them away (or in the dirty clothes hamper) or made the bed nicely as opposed to “you did a great job on your room.” The more often you use descriptive praise the more it will be accepted by the child.

Don’t only praise perfection and completion of a task but also praise if they start, try or comply quickly with a behavior you like. Make praise a habit. It sounds easy but we tend to point out negatives faster than positives. Begin by praising your child consistently for one week. In time you will begin to notice an increase in positive behavior and cooperation. Remember change only occurs when you are consistently responding with praise. In spite of feeling awkward and sounding silly, praise anyway. As long as you are genuine, you can’t overdo it.

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