Sometimes all the self-help books, suggestions from well-meaning friends, and websites with good ideas are just too much. You want to be a good parent, but you don't have time to read every parenting book to find out how to make things smoother for you and your kids. Fear not. There is something that doesn't take a book, a workshop, or an appointment to make a positive change in your parenting today. It's called positive amplifying feedback and here's how it works.
Instead of noticing the things that bug you about how your child is behaving, notice the ones you like. Often we think we are positive parents. I did until I took a couple days to keep an actual tally of the number of things I said to my kids that were positive and negative. It was a wake-up call. I found that there was more negative input than positive. We've all heard how there needs to be more positive deposits to the child's love bank, so make sure your deposit history puts you in the black.
How many times have you tiptoed away (so as not to break the magic spell) to get something done while your children are playing happily only to race back due to a blood curdling scream a few minutes later? When we do this we're giving energy to the negative conflict while the cooperative playtime gets nothing. If what we give energy to grows, shouldn't we do it the other way around and reward cooperative playtime with our attention? We must acknowledge the positive. The spell will not be broken!
1. Start looking for the things you like: a chore done without being asked, a smile instead of a snarl at wakeup time, a kind word to a sibling. It can be small, it can be short-lived; what's important is that you see it. It is a shift of the mind to stop seeing the problems and discover the delights. Tricky to do, but life-changing in the long run.
2. Tell your child what you see. The feedback must be specific, so "Good job!" is not going to cut it. Here's an example:
I notice you two are playing Chinese checkers without arguing about whose turn it is.
3. Tell your child why you are charged up about it or how it's beneficial.
It's great to see you using calm words to work out the rules!
4. Ask your child how they feel about it. This allows the child to own the experience and for the message to amplify in his or her mind.
I wonder how it feels to play a whole game without stopping or fighting?
Howard Glasser explains it like this in Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach:
You create for your child's benefit a positive picture of an event...and you re-frame that moment in such a way that the child not only can digest it as a nutritious experience of success, but in a way that lets her perceive your excitement in connection with a positively valued behavior.
Kids are expert energy readers. They know where you focus your energy and how to get your attention. How would your family life be different if your child chose to get your attention only by using behaviors you love?