In a world with so much negativity, it is often hard to be positive. Especially for children, they are constantly being told “no” and “don’t” all the time. I’m guilty of this with my own children and even with my dog, Reese. I am constantly saying, “stop that,” “get off of him,” “don’t do that,” “get that out of your mouth.” Yes, that last one is said to both my two legged and four legged children. Even at my kids’ ages (9,7, and 4), they still put the most random stuff in their mouth from time to time. Why on earth would a 7 year old put a coin in his mouth? (Yes, this happened fairly recently while in a babysitter’s care). I’m also clueless to why my 4 year old sometimes tastes a toy before she plays with it.
One of the things that I try to do, is to “catch them being good.” I attempt to do this with my kids at home, as well as my students at the schools where I work. Basically, when you see your child doing some type of behavior that is appropriate or on the right track, I compliment them on it. It’s important to keep it positive though. Saying “thank you for not killing each other” when my sons are fighting does not cut it. Rather, say something like, “thank you for listening when I told you to get your hands off your brother’s neck” or “I like how you calmed down after your hour long tantrum.” In many cases for children (& some adults), negative attention is better than no attention. If you can give your child enough positive attention, they may be less likely to seek attention by engaging in inappropriate behavior. The little things add up!
Another concept that is often hard for parents to grasp (myself included), is not to hold grudges against your child. Follow the wise words of Queen Elsa and, “let that shit go!” She said that, right? Or something like that… My husband remembers being annoyed when one of my nameless children as a toddler decided to paint the walls with his own poop. (I was out when this happened). Mike let him know that next time, he should use crayons & paper when creating artwork. He then cleaned up the masterpiece, and literally “let that shit go.” A toddler or young child isn’t going to understand hours or days later why you continue to be upset.
Here is what may be helpful to try when your kid behaves inappropriately:
1. After you let your kid know that they did something inappropriate, provide a consequence that fits the crime. (Time out, losing a privilege, added chore, etc)
2. Process or reflect upon the situation with them. Ask what they did, what they should have done, and their feelings about the behavior. An apology at this point helps too!
3. Let that shit go & go forward with your day!
Most kids will be more than willing to move on, so you should follow suit! Harping on the negatives will most likely exacerbate the situation and lead to more inappropriate behaviors. A very wise man said, “children choose happiness over being right.”