At the time I’m writing this, the World Series is coming down to the final two games and both the college football and the NFL seasons are in full stride. Both sports depend heavily on being able to make a successful catch whether it is on the baseball diamond or the football field.
There is another type of catch in parenting that parents could benefit from greatly if they improve their ability to make this catch. It is simple to do, but often because of negative interactions that have built up over time many parents struggle to make this catch more consistently. Like any skill, it will take repeated practice doing this to either develop the habit or get back in the habit of doing it with your child.
What’s this catch I am talking about? It is the idea of catching your child engaging the behaviors you want to see them doing.
Some parents may have to look hard to catch positive behavior by their child. This is particularly true if you have become very used to noticing the negative behaviors when they occur.
Now I get it. There are children out there who frequently engage in much more negative behavior than positive behavior. Changing these patterns will take time. Changing these patterns though will require you to take action and begin to make very conscious efforts at noticing when your child is engaging in the behaviors you want and then verbally reinforcing these behaviors.
Many parents will notice positive behavior by their child but will be reluctant to point out this behavior for fear that it will jinx the process. Parents may not realize this, but it might be the very fact that they are not mentioning the positive behavior they are seeing that leads to the cycle of seeing a lot more of the negative behavior from their child.
You will be far better off in the long run of reinforcing the behavior you want from your child more consistently rather than focusing on punishing your child into compliance. Punishing may work in the short run but is rarely a good long-term strategy to change their behavior.
The key to doing this involves two things: first, make your “catch” about specific behavior and secondly keep it short and sweet. The first key is to mention specific behavior rather than making general comments about your child. It is far better to say, “I really noticed how much you helped your younger brother pick up his toys when it was time to do so. Thanks for doing that.” rather than “You’re such a good kid”. The latter example points out no specific behavior that you want your child to do more of.
Note the phrase, “I noticed that__________ “ used in the example above. This is very good language to develop to help communicate to your child that you are paying attention to their positive behavior.
The second key is to keep it short and sweet. Parents often use far too many words trying to explain things to their child. This then leaves the child struggling to remember the main point of whatever it was you are trying to tell them.
By making it short and sweet you can do what I call a “hit-and-run”. This is making your comments and exiting stage right without expecting an ongoing verbal exchange with your child. There will be plenty of time to connect later on especially if you are engaging in this behavior more regularly.
So as you watch any of the fall sports, remember you can practice your catching too.