This week's Positive Discipline Parenting Tool was: Encouragement!
This is my favorite tool, I think! It seems like it is kinda the basis of Positive Discipline. The thinking behind it is that discouraged children misbehave, so encourage the misbehaving child and they will behave. If you want to see a copy of the card check out this blog or this blog.
It seems simple right? Just encourage your children and they will behave? It actually is a pretty simple tool to use, but the tricky thing is to remember it when you really need it - when your child is misbehaving. When your child is not doing what you want them to do your first idea may not be to encourage them.
The way that I make this one work for me is to try to take a good look at what my child is really doing before I try to correct the misbehavior. I can't tell you how many times I have caught my daughter doing something "naughty" and corrected her immediately. At closer inspection or upon hearing her explanation often times I discover that she actually had really good intentions, just poor execution :)
When I take the time to observe what is really going on (unless someone is in danger of getting hurt) or ask her what she is up to, I can usually get to the bottom of what is going on. Once I know what her motive is I can encourage her to achieve it in a more acceptable way. For example: The other day I found her dragging her baby brother, 9 mos, by the arms out of his room. She was pretty gentle about it and he actually seemed to be enjoying it (that is beside the point), so I asked her what she was doing. She said that the lamp in his room had been knocked over, by the baby pulling on the cord, and it was teetering on the edge of the changing table about to fall onto the baby. She was saving him! I thanked her for being so caring and looking out for her brother, then told her that he might get hurt if we drag him around by his arms. I asked her if there were any other ways that she could think of to protect him in this situation. She came up with a few ideas including moving the lamp herself and calling for me. I was so proud of her for describing the situation and for coming up with solutions, and I was proud of me for not screaming at her when I saw her dragging my baby down the hallway. If I had yelled at her, or even just said "STOP", she would most likely have burst into tears or shouted back because she would have then felt discouraged. I incorporated encouragement and listening into one incident and we all came out ahead!
Encouragement feels good, it is that simple. I think anyone, child or adult, can learn more about a situation when they are feeling good!
When I have shared this idea with parents or teachers they often say things like, "Isn't that rewarding them for misbehaving if you are so nice to them?" They are forgetting that children do better when they feel better. You are not rewarding or condoning anything by encouraging your child, but if you don't do it, then correcting will be practically impossible. Give it a try, it may surprise you how well it works and how good it feels to you too!