Here are a few tips on positive parenting, that will make your efforts to teach, guide and educate your child feel more empowering and less frustrating.
One of my favourite positive parenting strategies is described by Noël Janis-Norton, the author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, as “descriptive praise”. This is the idea that instead of giving over-the-top praise or negative criticism to our children, that we simply praise the behaviours that are important to us. Children are sensitive enough to see that any behaviour worth of adult attention is worth doing in future, and will make an effort to keep it up. For example, instead of saying “you are a good boy when you eat all your food” (and making the child feel ‘bad’ if they happen to not finish a meal one day), you can say “You ate up all your dinner tonight and didn’t leave anything on your plate” or “You weren’t sure about trying that new food but you did it anyway and you ate lots of your dinner”. The aim of descriptive praise is to gently guide children’s behaviour, without being too critical or giving them false high-praise for simple tasks (“Good girl, you brushed your teeth!”).
Australian educator Jo Lange suggests “Attention Giving” as a cure for attention seeking. Giving attention to your child is what is needed by a child who is craving and seeking your attention. Obviously parents do not want to ‘reward’ children for destructive or inappropriate attention seeking behaviour, so it is important to ‘catch’ them when they are good – give positive attention when they are doing well. Or if they are starting to escalate attention seeking behaviour, take the time to sit with them and talk, eye to eye, about how they are feeling and what they are doing. With a few minutes of dedicated attention and eye contact, and perhaps a little joke or something lighthearted, most children will get what they need.
When challenging behaviour does happen despite your attempts to give attention, Jo recommends you need to follow these steps:
- ASK the child what they should be doing (rather than telling them off). e.g. what should you be doing with your shoes and jacket right now?
- FOCUS ON THE BEHAVIOUR tell the child you do not like their behaviour e.g. I don’t like how you haven’t put on your shoes yet (rather than tell them they are being naughty/difficult)
- FOLLOW THROUGH tell the children what the consequences are if they misbehave, and follow through with your consequence (e.g. if you keep delaying getting dressed we’ll be late today and I won’t have time to organise your playdate this weekend).