Browsed by
Month: October 2016

Why We Need to Praise Children Regularly for their Good Behavior

Why We Need to Praise Children Regularly for their Good Behavior

Molding our children’s character requires continual development of new parenting techniques. But one technique stands out: we need to praise our children’s good behavior and character regularly.

We all want to belong, to be affirmed, and to be recognized for contributing. This is true for babies as well as my employees who are in their 50’s. Praise and recognition are great motivators for all, and they will help shape our children’s character.

After almost 5 years as a parent, I believe that the carrot and stick both play an important role in molding character, but I try to always start first with the carrot. The carrot is a symbol of a reward for positive behavior, i.e. praise or a sweet treat, while the stick is punishment for negative behavior.

Here is an example of how the stick technique did not work, but the carrot technique did. It occurred at dinner time with our oldest son. About the time he turned four, he started a combination of bad behavior. He started to routinely say potty words at the dinner table, get out of his chair without permission, and just refused to eat anything on his plate unless he successfully negotiated a cookie or ice cream first.

When it’s the end of the day, and you’re tired from work, it can be a challenging time to have the patience required to coach your children. When you’re hungry and your warm dinner is under your nose, it becomes doubly challenging for me to retain a calm demeanor.

We at first tried the punishment, such as time-outs and taking his buddies away, but this was not working. The bad behavior was becoming routine. We did not want to create a continual habit of taking away his favorite buddy either.

Now we try to reserve the stick for when my oldest son hurts his younger brother or other kids, is repeatedly disrespectful, or makes dangerous choices. To use the stick technique effectively we realized quickly that we had to find his currency, or in other words, what would potentially make him upset enough to modify his behavior. While repeated instructions and yelling were not always effective, we found that time-outs and taking away his favorite stuffed animals or toys caught his attention most of the time.

So, in lieu of the stick technique, we got creative and tried a “good choices” chart. This is where we draw a star whenever he makes a good choice on a piece of paper we kept on the refrigerator. Then, after so many stars on the chart he got different rewards such as a Hershey Kiss or a cookie. A lot of stars grants him prized iPad time. We celebrate it, and make a big deal of this.

Examples of what good choices that earn a star are:

  • doing something nice for someone else
  • doing your chores the first time you’re asked
  • eating your fruits and vegetables the first time you’re asked
  • regularly using your manners without being reminded.

This works. Not all the time, but some of the time, and to us that was a success. In general, our 4-year-old got better at dinner time, and since then, we keep trying to find new ways to keep encouraging that good behavior.

The praise we’ve been giving him aloud allows his worthiness and positive contribution to get recognized within our house. This will have a lasting impact on his self-esteem, as well as his behavior.

The chart and this regular praise also did something that I wasn’t expecting quite yet at his age. After months and months of using the chart, I now see him light up when he makes a good choice. He holds his head high, his shoulders back and has a genuine proud smile. Even if he thinks no one is looking. This routine praise is now shaping how he makes decisions.

Just recently both boys and I were in the backyard. They were playing nearby while I was doing yardwork. Our 2-year-old was pushing a toy wheel barrow full of dirt, and he kept getting it stuck when he tried to push it up onto the sidewalk. Our 4-year-old saw this and quickly ran over and joyfully said, “I will help you, brother!” He then easily picked up the wheel barrow, set it up on the sidewalk and went back to playing with his toys.

I pretended not to see it but watched out of the corner of my eye. He wasn’t doing it for a star on the chart or to get noticed. Afterwards, you could sense his pride and happiness after helping his brother, and it didn’t even cross him mind to look for recognition.

This is the character we all hope to find in our children, and we can encourage and support it by regularly and sincerely praising our children.

Fathers have Tremendous Influence on Children’s Fear

Fathers have Tremendous Influence on Children’s Fear

As a father we have tremendous influence on the fears and dreams of our children.

The phrase, “Like father, like son,” directly applies here. Unfortunately, many children are burdened with the reality that their parents’ life influenced many of their unsubstantiated fears. I am working hard to not influence my children that way. Here’s an example of this influence.

We live one block from our local police and fire station and end up spending a lot of time talking about what they do. My boys are even going to be a fireman and policeman for Halloween this year.

Recently, my 4-year-old son and I have been discussing how the policeman are responsible for enforcing the law and that means giving punishments to adults if they make bad choices.

Over the last few weeks he purposely took a few small toys from his pre-school. I explained to him how this was stealing, and that if adults get caught for this they would get arrested and possibly go to jail. We discussed how adults would have to give the stuff back that they took, pay an additional fine, and if it was a lot of stuff, they could spend some time in jail. He quickly starting to cry and said to me, “But daddy, I don’t know how to pay with money.”

While trying to teach him a serious lesson about making good choices, I instantly terrified him. Luckily, I was also able to instantly calm him down and remove his fear.

As soon as his face turned to tears, I quickly but gently pulled him in close on my lap, and told him that it would be okay. Within a breath or two, he calmed down, and I explained to him that it was my job to show how to pay for things and help teach how to make good choices to avoid getting arrested when he is an adult.

I was astonished at how quickly his fear came and went during our conversation. This made me acutely aware that as parents, we strongly influence our children’s fears, for better and worse. We are their ultimate sense of security.

My father has significantly influenced my perspective on fear. He is very comfortable and appears fearless about negotiating. I would actually argue that he rather enjoys and excels at it.

Since I witnessed this as I grew up, I have followed suit. I don’t have any fear and can remain calm in what most find stressful negotiation situations. I find this calm can be a strong advantage. Whether it is negotiating for a big purchase for a house or car, the salary for a new job, or even over a client contract, I find myself enjoying the thrill of the process.

So as a parent, we must be diligent and responsible with how we use and talk about fear.

When we are coaching or disciplining our children, inducing fear is often a great way to modify their behavior. But we also must be careful to not overuse fear. Inducing in too much unnecessary fear in our children may prevent them from chasing their dreams or experiencing joy later on.

I pay a lot of attention to when I sense fear in my children. I engage them and discuss what they are scared of and why. If it is an unsubstantiated fear like my 4-year-old’s fear of being able to pay a police ticket, then I can quickly calm them and explain that there is nothing to fear.

On the other hand, if they are scared of something that does pose a real potential danger, I can confirm that fear and teach them to avoid the risk. For example, sometimes cars drive fast on the road by our house, and this is a legitimate threat they should definitely fear, for their own safety.

So as parents, let’s make sure we’re in tune with our children’s fear. Let’s coach them to not fear unnecessarily, but keep a healthy dose of fear for life’s true risks.

Unconditional Love Trumps All Else

Unconditional Love Trumps All Else

“Love is a commitment to a person, not to that person’s behavior.” – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

The most important thing you can ever do for your child is try to provide them with continual and unconditional love.

This is, by far, the best thing my parents have ever done for me. Nothing even comes close. As time passes, this becomes more and more apparent.

I know in my soul that my parents love me, but there were also times when they didn’t like me. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was a brat. Rebellion was the theme, and Guns and Roses were playing on my Walk-man. My friends and I all took on the persona of GNR members and acted like it.  I was disrespectful to my teachers, to the point where about half of my 4th grade year was spent sitting in the corner of the classroom by myself. Sorry, Mom.

But even during the rough parts of childhood, adulthood, and that troubling transition in between the two, I always knew they loved me.  Always.

I remember two moments in my college years vividly that remind me of this often. Both were during that awkward transition to adulthood.

The first one was a phone call to my father when I did something dumb and got caught. I called him to confess and ask for help. I was 20. After I shared what happened with him, his calmness never wavered. He was able to sense in my tone of voice that my tail was already between my legs, and I didn’t need an additional verbal whipping. Instead, he very gently confirmed my mistake, and then offered to help. His ability to sense my own remorse and be willing to help communicated to me his unconditional love. Yes, I did something very dumb. He and I both knew it.

This moment with my father is burned in my memory forever, and I think of it often when my sons do their own foolish or immature things. I strive to have the ability to gently confirm that they made a mistake, remind them of the consequences of that mistake, let them know that everything is going to be okay, and let them know that I still love them anyway. I now can see my 4- year-old’s  need for this affirmation in his eyes when he is caught doing something wrong. I proceed with my discipline and correction in a love-first mindset.

The other time was when I decided to drop out of college, move from Arizona to Montana, and not tell my parents before I did it. I sent them a letter on my way out of town and described the reasons why.  This was a time before cell phones, so they received the letter and had no way to immediately get a hold of me. I called them from a pay phone in Idaho the day they received the letter. They had heavy hearts for the period that I was going through, but – again — love inspired their words and tone to me.

As my first major action in officially establishing myself as an independent adult, whether they agreed with my choices or not, they made sure I knew they loved me. Within a few days, they had travel plans to come visit me in Montana later in the summer and be present in my life as I went through this transition.

In hindsight, this was one of the most important moments in my early adulthood. It was a decision I made with tremendous personal burden and conflict and worried tremendously how my parents would react. Their unwavering love during such a vulnerable and challenging time in my life was one of the few fundamental things I could rely upon. Without it, that time in my life could have led me down a significantly different path.

My parents may not be terribly fond of these memories because of all of the fear and worry they experienced for their child. But they served as huge opportunities for their strength and love to fill me in times of need. From my perspective, they are tremendously powerful memories I have of my parents. Those were times of my life is when I learned that my parents’ love for me was truly unconditional.

It is easy to love your child when they are obedient, sweet, and love you back. It is challenging when they are disobedient, ungrateful, and embarrassing. But that is when your love matters most; it just might not be obvious at the time.

Unconditional love transcends action or character. It is unwavering.This love must remain even if your children fail at school, break the law, or maliciously hurt someone. My parents have chosen and worked really hard to love me regardless of my actions. In my moments of weakness and vulnerability,that love truly mattered. My parents have given me so much throughout the years, but this gift of love is set apart from the rest.

Now as a parent, I aim to lead with love, especially in the trying times.Love is what our children really need the most.