Catch Them at Being Good

When I was a parent educator, I used to tell parents who were struggling to turn around a child’s repetitive bad behavior, “You have to catch them at being good.” Sometimes they would look at me like I had red stripes. They were struggling to imagine the last time they had seen their child do something good. I have had experience with this. I remember one of my children in particular, whose name will go unsaid here, who had Bernie and I baffled on how to get her to behave. I think I intuitively knew that we had to do something radical to turn things around. I even suggested to Bernie that we do something that we really found difficult, that is, to ignore the bad behaviors for a while. Then as soon as we saw a positive behavior, we were all over her with praise.

Years later, I had an opportunity to use the same technique on one of the said child’s child. This child, around kindergarten age, would collapse to the floor every time you asked her to do something she did not want to do. One day, she was asked to go to get her coat on and I knew she didn’t intend to do it, but she turned toward the door ever so slightly and I caught her. “Look at that!” I told her mother all excited. “I told her to get her coat on and she immediately turned to do it. Wow, isn’t that the coolest thing since peanut butter and chocolate got together!”  The formerly rebellious little girl smiled and walked over to get her coat off the hook. Understand the technique?

Guess what! It works on husbands, too.

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