What would happen if we chose to use a different approach to disciplining our children? One where we focused on teaching them what they were doing right, rather than what they were doing wrong. I call this giving children their five a day, as the focus is on finding at least five things which your child is doing right, and praising them for it. It’s easier than you think and the positive effects on your child’s behaviour, your mood, and the household atmosphere are amazing. I would encourage you to give it a try and experience first hand the benefits of this different perspective. Keep in mind these three principles when giving praise:
The praise must be sincere and deserved: Children can tell when praise is insincere and not deserved, but equally children shouldn’t need to do anything extraordinary to receive it. If your child starts their homework without being asked, then praise their initiative, if they come to the table for dinner as soon as you ask, then praise their time keeping, and if your child helps carry the bags in from their car, praise their kindness.
Praise specific behaviours not character traits: Focus your praise on the specific behaviour you see, rather than describing it as part of your child’s character. If your child helps you lay the table praise their helpfulness, rather than labelling them your little helper, if your child works quietly on their homework praise their diligence, rather than calling them clever, and if your child practices their musical instrument praise their effort, rather than calling them musical. By focusing on the specific behaviour you are telling your child you value their efforts, promoting a mindset which sees practice as rewarding in itself.
Avoid making comparisons: When you praise your son for his diligence at starting his homework without being asked, don’t make any reference to his sister, who may not have started hers. Comparisons, however unintentional, only fuel sibling rivalry. Instead keep your focus on the specific behaviour of each child and praise this only.