I really try to be a good mom, I do. And like all moms, I have my days when I want to pull my hair out (only the grey hair). I have pretty good kids. I love them to pieces! But I feel like I'm always asking them to do the same things over and over. What can I do to encourage good behavior?
Grey-headed in Greenville, NC
What a great question! You're not alone in this one. Not at all!
Kids are pretty simple. They want food, toys, playtime with their friends, to be challenged and to learn, and to spend lots of time with you. They want to be loved and heard. But when they are hungry, tired, cranky, wandering all over Target, or won't take a bath, it's hard to remember that. Sometimes there are natural reactions that just happen, like getting frustrated with them or feeling discouraged because they aren't listening well.
Happy kids and happy families don't just happen by accident. But it isn't as hard to do as you think. One key to encouraging good behavior involves giving them attention when before there's a problem.
For instance, when you're having an important phone conversation, that's usually the time when they want water, they want to play with the board game at the top of the closet that they never play with, they want to tell you a story about their action figures- you know the drill. But the 30 minutes prior when you were folding laundry, when you actually could have listened and given them your full attention- they don't come near you then! (Can you blame them? Who wants to be accidentally taken by the laundry monster?)
Here are three tips to help encourage your kids to have good behavior:
- Praise- Who doesn't love positive feedback? Kids (and spouses, too) really love it! To help them know what you like about they're doing, be specific. Which one do you think is more effective? “I like it when you do that” vs “I love how you push the chairs back under the kitchen table! That's such a big help when we're cleaning up!” Which phrase do you think will encourage them to push the chairs back under again next time?
- Attention-Even if you tend to be bashful, people love getting attention from those they love. Attention doesn't have to take a lot of time. In fact, you don't even have to say anything to give the kind of attention your kids need. Giving them a wink, a smile, or a nod when they are doing their homework like you asked them to do or are brushing their teeth without being told go a long way. Don't underestimate the power of those little things in helping them to brush their teeth again the next night.
- Activities- Have interesting and engaging activities for your kids to do, especially things that help them to be independent or to learn new things. Toys they've mastered lose their appeal! Activities and toys that offer new challenges tend to hold their attention longer.
Remember: the key to these tips being successful is putting them into play when your kids are acting the way you want them to behave. This enforces and encourages their behavior. It may take some practice to get these into action, but you'll see a difference once you do! It's the small and simple things that make the greatest impact!