Children of all ages enjoy parent recognition. They like it when their parents make a fuss over their behaviour or highlight something they’ve done.
Even teenagers are usually accepting of some encouragement and recognition from their parents, provided it’s not done in public and you don’t go overboard.
Sometimes parents will reward their children’s behaviour with a treat, money or a gift. This is okay in small doses, but really parental recognition is a high enough driver for children’s behaviour, most of the time.
First borns, in particular, love your approval. Youngest children just love that you have noticed them! They just love the attention rather than your approval. Seconds can sometimes do things in spite of their parents, but deep down they love the recognition, but many won’t let on that they like it.
What you focus on expands
The behaviours you notice and comment on expand. If you want your kids to be neater then focus on their neat behaviours.
“You’ve tidied your toys up before dinner. Top job!” You don’t have to throw a party, just let them know that you noticed and you approve of their tidiness. You may also let them know how it impacts on you.
“You’ve tidied your toys up before dinner. It makes my job easier.”
Okay, noticing kids’ tidiness once won’t suddenly turn “messnicks” into “neatnicks”, but do it often enough and you’ll get some turn around.
You can kids a pat on their head for all sorts of behaviours including:
Being co-operative: Parent-deaf kids need a pat on the head when they respond on your terms not theirs.
Being brave: Nervous and anxious kids need have their bravery pointed out to them. It’s reassuring and empowering.
Being helpful: Want helpful kids? Then you need to notice helpful behaviours
Being tolerant: Sometimes elder siblings need to be very tolerant of younger siblings. Tolerance is a very giving behaviour and should be promoted.
Being patient: Something to encourage in boys, in particular. It’s not their strong-point.
Being persistent: Let kids know when hanging in there pays off. The link between persistence and success is massive but persistence needs to be promoted. It’s also the one factor of temperament that can be impacted by parenting.
Being friendly: If your child struggles in social situations, then give pro-social behaviours such as sharing, making first contact with another child or taking an interest in another person some recognition.
Also don’t wait until you get perfect behaviour to give recognition particularly for very young children.
Kids have L plates when it comes to behaving (co-operatively, bravely, patiently....) so their attempts and close approximations need to be verified by the significant adults in their lives – their parents.
Recognising kids positive behaviours is easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do! We often forget or get tied up with other things so we neglect to show appreciation and nurture the behaviours our kids need to develop.
But it’s the little things such as giving positive recognition that have the biggest impact on kids’ development.
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