Tuesday, February 1, 2011


With our city closed down due to an ice storm today, we had a nice family day spent indoors.  Lots of hot chocolate, fires roasting and cuddling time with my sweet little girl and my husband.  It gave me a chance to not be in a rush to run some sort of errand and really focus on playing with my daughter (and getting some much needed housework done.)

But I think since my little one is really moving and rolling around more, she is a lot more active and was getting cabin fever, aka getting fussy. I was beginning to use some of my play therapy limit setting techniques as practice, such as "that is not for eating," and "we sit down when we eat" and it reminded me about starting to use the whole 'Positive' approach to discipline, relationships and life.

What is the 'Positive' approach? Basically, it means noticing the positives and commenting on them when you see them. Sounds easy enough right? But in reality, most of us don't use it. It's a technique that a lot of therapists use and it's also mentioned in my favorite book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.

(photo credited from http://waynemates.com)
Here is why using Positive Comments works: Kids constantly get attention when they act out and will continue to act out and test limits because us adults are reinforcing that negative behavior.  This is called negative attention or negative reinforcement.

A child throws his toy and his parent gets mad, scolds him and he gets punished.  A young girl that says "No" when her mom asks her to pick up her toys and the mom's voice raises and she drops what she is doing to discipline her child.  These children are learning: 'wow, when I act out, my mom or dad drops everything and I get their undivided attention!'

So how to turn the negative into positives? Basically it involves 'catching your child being good.'

Every time you see just the littlest positive thing, comment on it and give it your undivided attention. When your daughter throws her trash away, tell her 'wow, thank you so much for throwing your trash away all by yourself!' and give her as much attention as possible for that. Compliment her sharing, listening skills, not interrupting, obeying you, playing with her toys and not throwing them, etc. Raise your voice enthusiastically and get all excited about your child's good behaviors, just as you would when she is breaking a limit.

And on the flip side, it means not giving as much attention to the negative behaviors.  If your child misbehaves, just give it a brief acknowledgment and set the limit and give as little attention to it as possible. Even if you think your child needs a big ordeal over hitting their brother. It definitely takes some practice, but after awhile, they will learn that their parent is happiest when they behave well and they get a lot of attention.

After giving less attention to negative behaviors, they will start listening to your limit setting and follow through more. Maybe that's why when my parents used to give me that 'look', that was all it took for me to stop misbehaving. It was just a quick little look: no loud yelling, no arguing, just a look and we would behave instantly!

This technique is great to also use with your spouse, co-workers, and family.  Seriously.  My husband used it on me tonight after I made us dinner by saying, 'that you so much for making dinner, I really appreciate your hard work.'  He has no idea he used a discipline technique, but it will sure influence me to want to make dinner again :)

If it can make you feel good as an adult to hear positive commentary, you can imagine how much of a smile your child will have when we compliment their actions! No one wants to constantly hear nagging and complaining all day long, same goes for kids.  The more positives, the happier everyone will be!


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