We’ve all been there before…you’re at the grocery store and the next aisle over you hear a child start to throw a temper tantrum. As you round the corner and head into said aisle, there is the child who is now being dragged by the arm by his mother, while she loudly berates him. The thought, “thank goodness that’s not my child,” has been replaced by, “thank goodness I’m not that kind of mother.”
Now, please don’t get me wrong. Throwing a temper tantrum anywhere is NOT acceptable in our house, but handling a temper tantrum by, well, having a temper tantrum myself, is never the way I want to address my child’s behavioral problems–whether in public or private settings!
When it comes to discipline, I am not a push over. In fact, I have one rule for caregivers of my 2-year old daughter. We do NOT “count to 3″ in our house. This is the method of parenting that bothers me the most. My daughter Maggie is given a warning, and then told what the consequence will be if she continues to misbehave. I believe that counting to 3 only teaches children that they can continue to disobey for 3 more seconds. When I tell my daughter that she needs to correct her behavior, it needs to be immediately. If Maggie was running into traffic, I want her to know that when I yell “STOP” she needs to stop immediately, not 3 seconds too late.
Every parent at one point or another will need to address, and hopefully correct, bad behavior. My question for you today is, what do you do about good behavior? You see, I feel that Maggie generally exhibits good behavior, because we have consistently encouraged, rewarded, and cheered her on for her good conduct. It is my belief that if you spend a large portion of your energy on making sure your child knows how important good behavior is to you, you’ll spend a lot less time and energy addressing bad behavior.
We use a number of different techniques to encourage Maggie in her good behavior. The first, and my favorite, are random rewards. These are times when we reward Maggie with something tangible when she wasn’t expecting it, nor asking for it. For instance, yesterday we went out to dinner as a family. Maggie not only sat in her chair and colored quietly while she waited for her meal, but she also finished all of her dinner. As we headed to the car, to Maggie’s delight, I informed her that we had cookies at home and because of her good behavior, she would receive one when we got home. Well, you would have thought I’d promised her the whole bag of cookies! She talked about her cookie all the way home and smiled so big as she gobbled it down before bedtime.
We are also in the midst of potty training in our house. Maggie adores stickers, so we decided to make her a sticker chart. Every time she uses the potty, she gets to put a sticker of her choosing on her chart. I want to let her potty train at her own pace, when she’s ready, so I have not been pushing her. Some days she goes in the potty, other times she doesn’t. She does however, always remember that she will get that sticker after she goes, and boy does that make her happy!
Another way we reward Maggie is through activities. There are so many fun activities for kids that are also FREE. When Maggie has had a good day, we’ll take her to the park, fill up her kiddie swimming pool in the back yard, or bake a batch of cookies together. Last week we decided to paint our toenails together–it was lots of fun for both of us!
Lastly, beyond the tangible rewards we give Maggie, we also shower her with praise on a daily basis. As I notice her being sweet to her brother, cleaning up her toys, obeying promptly, etc., I make it a point to tell her with words and through hugs just how proud I am of her and how much I appreciate her good behavior. I have noticed that the more I praise her for good behavior, the more good behavior I see from her.
If you feel as though you are always correcting bad behavior in your house, I’d encourage you to make it a point to spend a whole week encouraging good behavior. As your child is rewarded for their good behavior, you’ll see the bad behavior fade away!