Rome Wasn’t Build in a Day or Helping Your Child to Change Behavior and Feel Good About It

I applaud parents who hold their children to high standards of behavior.   But how do you get there when your child’s behavior is far from where you want it?  Of course, books have been written on this topic.  I’ll just mention one part of the process that I find is very important.  Mostly change happens in small increments.  Of course there are stories of parents who read their child the riot act and then next day that child was making her bed, picking up her room, and doing her dishes all before school.  I always wonder how long that behavior lasted, though.

Here is what I see that works.  Set goals that are realistic.  You can know in your head that you really want your child to make her bed and pick up her room before school, but start with something achievable.  Maybe you tell her to make her bed before school.  On the first day she pulls up the covers, but the pillow is on the floor.  How do your respond?  Praise the effort.  If this is more effort than you saw before, let her know that you notice and appreciate it.  At another time show her what you want done.  It is so easy to undo a complement with immediate criticism, ie, this is better, but what I really want is …..”  You child hears, “I did it wrong.”  If you can say, “Wow, you pulled up the covers.  Thank you,”  she hears that she did well, and she is still motivated.

Did you let her off the hook?  No, you didn’t  because you will show her what you want and express the optimism that she’ll learn to do it.  Also, you know what you want.  The difference is that she will do learn a new behavior and feel along the way that she is successful.  Sounds good to me.

Let me know what you think.

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