Practicing Praise Instead of Punishment with our Children

12 Apr

I spent the weekend at the Idaho Annual Play Therapy Conference with Scott Riviere, M.S., L.P.C., R.P.T.-S. as our keynote speaker.

The focus of the conference was on children and adolescents,  particulary with Disruptive Behavior Disorders. These are our kids who may be diagnosed with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Conduct Disorder. Some “unofficial” temperaments of children who may fall under this category are: the anxious/nervous, depresseive, and the stubborn/strongwilled. Any of those sound familiar?

According to Riviere, studies have shown that 3-20% of our children may fall in the category of disruptive behavior. More importantly, studies also show that “Punishment Based Discipline” (ie- Grounding, time out, taking away priveleges) can be ineffective with these kiddos. They tend to do much better with a “Reward-Based Discipline” (ie, Praise, sticker chart, rewards, encouragement).

These kiddos seem to be particularly sensitive to failure (who isn’t). Therefore, punishment can be seen as an additional failure which causes them to give up trying or to act out in defiance. Not to mention, there is the potential for them to begin to see themselves as “a bad kid”…and before you know it- they  fulfill their role as that label.

Praise and encouragement for the things they are doing right is FAR more effective than pointing out the things they do wrong. It is just takes more effort and can more difficult for parents to do. :/ We must begin by observing those little things that too often go unnoticed. How nice is it to have a boss who is encouraging and pointing out the things he/she likes opposed to a boss who is always pointing out the things he/she dislikes about your work? Who would you rather work for?

For instance, when asking your child to clean their room- instead of going in there and pointing out all the things they missed such as the dirty socks on the floor or random legos they neglected to put away- try pointing out all the little things they did do. “Wow- I love how hard you worked at putting away your homework. And look how great you lined up your shoes- you really seemed to work hard.” They will feel so proud of their capabilities and want to continue to get that response out of you. Although their room may not look “perfect” (is there such thing) they will feel encouragement and actually want to continue this behavior.

So, now for us parents: Practice practice practice. Changing our language to be more positive may not come as natural as you would think. We often are far better at pointing out what we don’t like about our children and what they can improve on- then what we are proud of. Remember that our children are learning each and every day new things and we can’t expect them to behave exactly the way we want to 100% of the time. Do you behave 100% of the time…come on be honest…you are telling me that you never ever go above a speed limit? Even just 5 over? If you do then you are amazing and I want to meet you!  When we expect perfection from our children- we set ourselves up for disappointment- therefore we get frustrated with them. Nobody likes a grouchy mommy or daddy and I know you certainly don’t want to feel that way!

Now get out there and give some additional encouragement to your kiddos…come on- right now- go see what happens!

Just a few thoughts today- much more on inspirations from this workshop coming soon!-

Cristi Dame, LPC, NCC


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