Do these thoughts ever cross your mind: Why won’t my kids listen? Why do I constantly have to yell at my kids? Why are my kids so bad?
Yes? Try using behavior-specific praise. It can be super powerful. If your kid does something good, praise them for it. Mention praise along with specifically what you liked. Such as, “Great cleaning up your toys!” “Awesome washing your hands!” “I love how you are sitting on the couch!” Remember to praise the small stuff. The more you can praise the better so mention the little things they do well too.
Whatever your child does that you wish he didn’t, think of what you really want him to do. Instead of jumping on the couch, you wish they would sit. So then praise for nice sitting whenever and wherever he is sitting nicely (i.e., even if not on the couch.) He typically throws blocks but is playing with his trains nicely. Even though he usually doesn’t throw the trains, praise him for nice playing anyway. The more you can praise and attend to the behavior you want, the more likely that is what you will get in the future. Also remember to phrase the praise in a positive way emphasizing the good behavior, not reminding of the behavior you don’t want him to do. Say “Nice playing with your toys” instead of “Nice job not throwing your toys.”
“A kid will take a soggy potato chip over no potato chip.” I have heard this a lot but never believed it until I began working with children. If your child is primarily getting attention for the bad stuff then that is what he will engage in to get attention. He has learned up to this point that if I want Mom or Dad’s attention I should throw toys or jump on the couch. Also think about the intensity of your reaction. Are you yelling in a loud voice when they do something you don’t like? Now think about how you praise. Are you praising in as loud of a voice? You want the praise to be better than the scolding. I know it is difficult when you see your child doing something wrong or even dangerous such as climbing on furniture. You want to make sure they know how bad it is. However some children see it as “Wow, look I made mom get really loud and red in the face.” Some don’t see the scolding as punishing. If you can try to stop the dangerous and bad behavior while giving a more monotone reaction (or even better, no reaction), then you can save the loud response for the good behavior. So your child gets the louder, red face, more enthusiastic excited response for the good behavior. There needs to be a qualitative difference. This shift teaches your child that he gets the better attention for the good and subpar attention for the bad.
If you would like more information on how to change your child’s troubling behavior, check out our purposeful parenting training at here.