How Much Do I Love You?

With Valentine’s Day approaching, this is a great opportunity to ask ourselves “how many times a day do we provide our children with verbal praise and attention for the good moments they have?” Most parents answer that they always try to address moments of good behavior with their children, but is this really true?

Here are a couple of examples:

Let’s say your toddler has tough time remaining seated at the dinner table. He puts his feet on the table and is blatantly misbehaving. How many times do you ask him to sit still? It’s probably quite a few.

Next, you are busy in the kitchen preparing dinner when your older child chooses that specific moment to nag you to play with him or to help him with a project. How many times do you explain that you are busy now, you will try to help him later and to please not nag? You probably spent most of the dinner preparation time dealing with this.

And now a quiz…

Your toddler finally sits nicely for few minutes, eats his food and even keeps his feet off the dinner table. You are able to grab a bite for yourself…finally. How many times would you praise your child for remaining seated, eating so nicely and following dinner time rules?

When your older child found some way to occupy himself or started building his project independently while you finally have few quiet moments for your own activities, how many times would you flatter him for being so independent and for doing such a wonderful job trying by himself without asking for help?

For most parents, the answer to both questions would be zero.

Behavior is like a flower. If you want a beautiful flower to bloom, you must water it. What will happen if you water a weed instead of the flower? The same thing will happen with desired behaviors. By providing continuous attention for desirable moments, the behavior of our children will straighten up, and most of your communications with each other will be positive.

Do you want to improve your skill at providing continuous positive attention? Set a goal for yourself. For example, give 5 positive statements each hour, and use an hourly alarm to remind yourself. Ask your partner to encourage you and participate in this task. It’s not easy to do! We know! You could use a chart for self-management such as the Habitz appfor tracking your daily progress. This will help make the atmosphere in your home more positive and will contribute to reducing the number of undesirable behaviors you experience. This would be a nice resolution to make for Valentine’s Day, wouldn’t it?

Victoria Tenenbaum is a certified Behavior Analyst, BCaBA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Tel Aviv University and currently working toward master’s degree in applied behavior analysis.  Victoria specializes in training parents to address children’s problem behaviors by implementing a scientific approach to correcting a child’s sleep or behavior problems. Victoria is a mother of 2 very active boys and is a pediatric behavior consultant for Habitz.