A child doing wrong somehow stands out. Maybe it is because they do it loudly or seem to do it while you are around them. Maybe it is because you have already told them they should not do something and then they do it. It is easy to put too much emphasis on this kind of behavior.
A critical part of raising children is to catch your child doing right. Be excited about your child doing something right. Make a big deal of it. Do not let this opportunity slip by.
One parent gave a special name tag for her child at dinner and then announced to the family what her son had done that was right. She had seen him look very carefully both ways before he crossed the street. She could see the pride her son felt as she told the entire family what she had observed. It not only taught him something but it also taught his younger sister about looking both ways.
Another parent saw her 4-year-old daughter reading a book to her new baby sister. While the 2-month-old sister may not have fully appreciated this act, the little girl’s mom did. She gave her a big hug and a kiss and made a definite point of telling her what a wonderful big sister she is.
A father of a 15-year-old was so impressed with his son for the great job he did mowing the lawn. He took his son aside and told him how proud he was of the good job his son was doing on this weekly chore. He talked with him about how he depended on his son and he had not let him down. He even gave him a special treat the next day when he picked him up from school.
Another mother overheard a conversation her 11-year-old daughter was having with a friend. The friend was being very critical of one of their classmates. Her daughter told her friend that they should be nicer to this classmate and try to help her. Later in the evening, her mother gave her daughter a big hug and told her how proud she was of her defending her classmate. The eleven-year-old learned a very important lesson.
Your child needs to feel the love you have for him by your words, actions, eye contact, physical touch (hugs, kisses, pats on the back), smiles and loving acts in a way that he will understand. It just takes a moment to look your child in the eye and tell him you love him. It lays a foundation for life.
While it is not important to make a big thing out of every time a child does something right, it should certainly be a regular part of your child’s growing years. If you find yourself scolding your child daily and not praising him daily, you probably need to check out if you are reacting too much to the negatives.
Pay attention to your own behavior so that you can feel good about the kind of job you are doing as a parent. We all need to feel good about ourselves.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach interim First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.