Creative Child

Brilliant Parenting: Encouraging Positive Behaviors in Others

By Brian Walsh

Guiding your child to behave in a positive manner is as easy as 1,2,3. Two business practices have been adapted for family use. The first one is compelling in its simplicity.

1. Set a Goal
The first step is to meet with your children, and have them "buy in" to a mutually-developed goal. Explain to them that decisions and goals are made for one of two reasons. That is, to move away from an uncomfortable situation, or to move towards a desired goal. The latter is certainly the better choice.

2. Course Correction
Establish a routine of having meetings to discuss progress. If your child is off-course, point out that the specific conduct is not assisting them in moving towards the goal. This isn't about blame, and the session will be most effective when you sit down together eye-to-eye. Sitting at eye level sets the tone that this will be a discussion rather than an adult-imposed directive. Ensure that your child helps to create the solutions.

3. Catch Them Doing Something Right
Walsh says that this technique is highly effective because positive reinforcement boosts self-esteem, the most vital building block of character. Children crave and require love and attention in order to thrive.

Researchers wanted to find out what was more effective with children, praising, criticizing, or just ignoring them. They found that children who were praised experienced a 71 percent rate of overall improvement. Those who were criticized improved by only 19 percent, and the ignored ones improved by just 5 percent. You have to admit that these numbers are significant. In another experiment, researchers behind a one-way mirror observed parents as they interacted with their children. In a specific time period, 433 occurrences of negative feedback were observed, whereas positive reinforcement was used only 31 times. Obviously, negative corrections are necessary when actions could lead to injury or damage.

When you observe your child expressing the desired behavior, say things like:

  • What a cleaver idea. I'm sure glad you are my son/daughter.
  • I noticed that you ____ - Keep it up!
  • You're getting better and better at that.
  • You showed a lot of responsibility when you ______ .
  • I appreciate the way you ______ .
  • I like the way you ______ without having to be reminded. Now you've got it!

This second formula is used by successful speakers and self-help writers. It is so simple that you'll probably say to yourself, "Of course this makes sense."

Here it is: Make a point, tell a story, and have them do an exercise.

1. Make a Point
Successful parents, teachers, and mentors are great at being clear about what they want to teach and why it's important to the learner.

2. Tell a Story
Walsh, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, says that the secret to telling an effective tale is to never reveal the moral of the story. That also means to not link it to the point you're making. Why? Stay with me here, because Aesop got it all wrong. You want their subconscious minds to process the story to reflect their own core beliefs, and their view or model of the world. Because it becomes personalized, the lesson will be more valuable and effective.

If you furnish the lesson of the story, the subconscious mind, which is lazy by nature, will not bother processing the information. The conscious mind will treat the story and its lesson as just another imposed principle, possibly spawning some resistance. That would be a wasted opportunity.

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3. Do an Exercise
Now for the most powerful part of the three step process: engage them in a game or exercise that really drives home the lesson to be learned. Allow a full day for the story to be processed by their subconscious mind before you suggest a game or exercise.

Effective exercises:

  • Ask them to create a play, TV or radio show based on the story, have them interview an expert on the topic, have them experiment with a variety of behaviors associated with the story.
  • Encourage your child to bring their friends in on the game. Be creative, and have fun with this. The more vivid the experience, the higher impact the lesson will have.

Because these activities are interactive and interpersonal, practicing them will enhance communication and bonding with your children.

Related Article: 3 Simple Steps to Effective Positive Parenting

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