I’ve been thinking a lot about the young people I’ve worked with over the years and continue to work with now. Many struggle with behaviors that they would like to change or behaviors that their parents would love for them to change! Most often as parents we are programmed to “catch” inappropriate behaviors and address them with a fitting consequence. From a behaviorists perspective, there are often important steps left out of this process of addressing behavior. If we as parents became better at learning and using these steps, we could increase our ability to have success in helping our kids change unwanted behaviors.
Rather then just calling out the behavior and issuing a suitable consequence take the few extra moments to teach to the behavior.
1) Label the behavior (lying, cheating, etc)
2) Provide a clear, age appropriate reason or rational as to why the behavior was not ok
3) Give them better option(s)
4) Make sure they understand
5) give a rationale as to why the alternate behavior works better
6) follow up.
Dr. Patricia Gisbert refers to this as “labeled praise”. “It is not enough to simply say, “good job”. The child does not know what they have done well” (https://www.boystown.org/parenting/article/Pages/accentuate-the-positive-use-praise-to-modify-childrens-negative-behavior.aspx) By using a phrase such as, “I like how you are using your inside voice” it lets the child know exactly what behavior they are demonstrating, that they are capable of doing it and that YOU recognize their ability and effort to do it. They will really appreciate the praise they get and will want to repeat the positive behavior to get more of that praise from you. Labeled praise is possible with so many behaviors. Often times you can list the negative behaviors you would like to see change and come up with their opposite, positive counterpart behaviors. How often should you try and use labeled praise? There are studies that suggest that the ratio of positive praise to negative correction could be as high as 8:1 but that an optimum ratio to promote change should be in the neighborhood of 4 positives to every 1 negative. I would guess that this would be out of the ordinary for most parents but is a great challenge and a behavior that can be developed into habit with repetition. “Catch them being good” is the mantra. Put it to the test.