As a parent, you probably put a lot of focus on telling your child what not to do. It’s easy to get into the habit of “catching” them doing something negative so you can correct the problem. While there isn’t anything wrong with that and it’s an effective way to teach them what they should and shouldn’t be doing, your child also needs reinforcement when they do something positive.
Criticism and compliments should be equally given to children, no matter their age. Think of your boss at work constantly pointing out the things you do wrong, but never offering up words of encouragement or telling you that you’re doing a good job. Chances are, it would start to affect your mood, your thought process, and even how well you function at work.
Children need encouragement and praise, too. It can help with their overall growth and development and allow them to become confident and self-assured as they grow. It’s a parenting style that could make a big difference in how your child sees themselves.
Let’s look closely at why it’s important to address the positive things your child does and how you can do it more often.
The Problem With the Negative
Pointing out things your child is doing wrong provides an opportunity to address and correct those things. But, only focusing on those negative things can end up doing more harm than good. When you are constantly correcting your child’s actions or behaviors, you could be causing them extra stress. This can lead to both short and long-term issues, including:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
Too much stress can even lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Having no positive reinforcement might also make your child feel like they don’t do anything right, which can be a huge blow to their confidence and self-esteem. They might also start to look at the world through a negative, pessimistic lens, which can hold them back from opportunities.
When you create a healthy balance between pointing out negative and positive things, you can teach your child to accentuate the positive, and they will learn how to build themselves up and be more confident in everything they do.
Understanding Your Child’s Behaviors
It’s easy to get frustrated with your child when you feel they’re doing something they aren’t supposed to. But, you have to remember that almost everything in a young child’s life is a learning experience. As a parent, you have the unique opportunity to guide that experience for them, one way or another. While you might jump to conclusions about why they do certain things or exhibit certain behaviors, one of the best things you can do is to work toward a better understanding of those actions and behaviors.
For example, your child may be acting out in certain ways due to a bigger issue, like a physical problem. Do they seem to have trouble focusing on one thing for too long? Are they doing poorly in school? Instead of punishing them for such things right away, talk to them about it. You might learn more about the underlying cause, which may even be something like a vision problem that is making life a bit more difficult for them.
It’s also important to consider any other life changes your child may be going through, including:
- A divorce or separation
- Changing schools
- The death of a loved one
By having a better understanding of why your child might be acting a certain way, you can teach them how to change those behaviors into positive actions and work through things in healthy, effective ways.
How to Focus On the Positive Things
Strangely enough, it can often feel easier to address negative behaviors than positive ones. But, you can be positive with your child and still enforce a lesson with positive punishment. Positive punishments:
- Have meaning
- Are black and white
- Solve problems
- Hold your child accountable for their behavior
But, it’s important to not only focus on punishment and behavioral changes. How can you, instead, pay more attention and address the positive things your child does?
First, again, remember that everything is a learning experience. One of the best things you can do is to teach your child to ask for help in situations where they might be struggling. Kids want to be independent, but encouraging them to ask for help gives them a better opportunity to learn. It also allows you to reinforce positivity in the way you help and guide them.
Focusing on the positive also means encouraging your children to explore and dive deeper into the things that naturally seem to interest them. When your child has more confidence and self-esteem due to positive reinforcement, they may have an easier time learning something new, like a musical instrument or a sport. In turn, that gives you more opportunities to focus on the positive things they’re doing.
So, the next time you’re tempted to scold your child or call them out on negative behavior, make sure you follow it up by addressing some positive things your child does, as well. It’s a small change in your parenting style that can make a big difference.