5 Easy Ways to Encourage Positive Behavior from Children
Managing the behavior of children can be challenging. Equip yourself with some go-to strategies to save yourself time, show respect to the child, and encourage positive behavior.
How can you solve that problem?
This is one of my favorite thing to say to kiddos, because it is so empowering. When a child comes to me with a small complaint such as "I don't have a pencil" or "My water spilled," I immediately respond with, "How can you solve that problem?" This puts the impetus on the child to take care of the situation. They must solve the problem, they have permission to do so and they are empowered to do so.
However, problems such as physical injury or bullying are examples of things children should not have to handle on their own. It is our duty as grown-ups to help them.
Teach your kiddos the difference between problems that require a grown-up's help, and problems that they can handle independently, such as lack of a pencil.
When one child is selected for a favored task or reward and the other children express disappointment by saying, "Awww, not fair!", I like to shrug and say, "He's the lucky duck today."
I know that it is common to say, "Well, life's not fair!" But I feel like that is such a negative thing to say, and it's not really the lesson that needs to be taught.
The lesson that needs to be taught is that you win some, you lose some. Somedays you get to be the lucky duck, and somedays you don't.
It's brief, it's positive, and it ends the conversation.
What are you doing right now?
This is a 3-part strategy. When I see a child making an undesirable choice, I walk over to him, get down on his level and ask politely, "What are you doing right now?" I wait for his answer. I don't accept anything but the truth.
As soon as the child gives an answer that shows that he is self-aware of the choice his is making, I ask the 2nd question, "What should you be doing?" If the child just doesn't know, I inform them, and escort them towards that choice. If they do indeed know what they ought to be doing, I say, "Please make that choice," and I escort them there.
I don't like it.
Most of the time, when kiddos are making poor choices, they don't need a consequence. Most of the time, they don't even need to be threatened with the idea of a consequence. They just need an adult to say, "I don't like it when you (fill in the blank), it's not okay." In my experience, this halts the behavior 9 times out of 10. Young children want you to liken them, and they want you to think well of them.
Are you okay?
I don't make kids say that they are sorry. When a child does something emotionally or physically hurtful to another child, I ask them to say to the injured child, "Are you okay?" This teaches empathy. Inquiring about another child's well-being is a good social skill.
Making a child say sorry doesn't make them feel remorse, and it doesn't teach empathy. It really just teaches them to say a word that they don't mean (or may not even understand) in order to get out of trouble.
You are proud of yourself!
When a child comes to me in search of praise, with a freshly completed painting or the ability to go all the way across the rings on the playground, I do not say, "Good Job."
I don't want the children in my life to learn to depend on others for their self-esteem and ability to feel proud of themselves. I want to empower them to be proud of themselves without anyone else's approval or feedback.
Instead of "Good Job!" I say in a positive voice, "Look at that! You did it! You are proud of yourself!" I am celebrating the fact that they feel proud of themselves without a dismissive, "Good Job."
When I do choose to complement a child on something that I like, I am very specific because I want to encourage that specific behavior: "I like that you put periods at the ends of your sentences,"or, "I liked that you were trying to make Sara feel better when she was sad."