originally published 9/17/09 but republishing now because it’s worth it–
Lately, I’ve felt overwhelmed by Cora’s ‘two-year-old-ness’.
Her fiery temper; her constant movement; her unceasing energy; her smiles, hugs, songs, and cuddles; her high high’s, and her low low’s. Some days we enjoy this roller coaster ride, and others, we all want off.
But what I’ve also realized is that as a parent, I’m more experienced than I was when Maddy was two, but I’m not in the fog of fatigue that I muddled through when Owen was the same age. I’m in a different place, and although I sometimes wish that Cora already knew the correct ways of behaving, I seem to have forgotten that those behaviors have to be taught.
So last week, I needed to revisit my old, trusty parenting books for a quick refresher. I didn’t like that I had begun to sound like a broken record, ordering everyone around, raising my voice, and being a reactive parent instead of a proactive parent.
I needed to stop, breathe, and really start to notice the behaviors I wanted her to continue. And then I needed to share with her what I noticed.
It’s all about “shining your light” where you indicate value:
- Noticing Behaviors: The goal with noticing is to state an observation rather than make a judgement.
No—Good job, Cora.
Yes!—Cora, you put your toys in the bin and your clothes in the drawers. You cleaned your room so you can find things when you want them.
Wordy, yes. Takes thought, yes. But it does make sense, especially for our little guys.
Here’s the skinny—
- Start your sentence with the child’s name or the pronoun ‘you’. Look at you!, or I noticed. . .
- Describe what you see. You found her blanket and gave it to her. That was helpful!
- End your description with a ‘tag’. Tags describe attributes of your child or values you admire, like that took determination; you sure are organized; that was helpful; that was thoughtful.
- Look at you! You’re eating with your spoon!
- You did it! You went potty on the big potty. Good for you!
- Owen, you held the door for Cora. That was helpful.
- Cora, you offered Maddy a french fry when hers were all gone. That was so thoughtful.
- Maddy, you picked up all of the doll clothes without being asked. That was super helpful.
Becky Bailey believes that if you accentuate your child’s strengths, you teach them their abilities. If you encourage their contribution, you teach them how important it is that they share their gifts.
It’s hard. It’s so hard. But positive behaviors have to be taught–which is much easier said than done sometimes.
And if we spotlight the behaviors that we want repeated (think: Special Plate), then most likely those behaviors will be repeated.
This Quick Trick is another one from Becky Bailey’s Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (2000), which has helped me to become more conscious in my disciplining. (When I am disciplined enough to use it!)
I’m far from an expert, hardly the perfect parent, and by nature am quick-tempered and fiery myself (hmmmm, where does sweet Cora get it?), but I am always, always looking for quick tricks to keep in my back pocket. Do share yours!
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