Discipline for Softies

Q. But how can you praise your child when he keeps having tantrums?

A. Help him "practice" the behavior you want to encourage by making it sort of a game. You can start out by saying, "Okay, we're going to play a new game today. It's all pretend, but if you listen and do what I say, then you'll get a check on this chart today. Okay, ready, Matt? Remember, we're just playing a game. Matt, please put your shoes on." If he cooperates, praise him the same as you would if you weren't pretending: "Wow, I can't believe you put your shoes on when I asked you to! Are you sure you haven't played this game before? Let me give you a hug!" Because it's a game, your child will get excited about following your directions, and after some more practice sessions, he'll be much more likely to cooperate when it's not pretend. Research shows that this type of praise works for kids at any age. Parents often start off being very skeptical, insisting their child would never fall for a game like this. I just tell them to try it for a week. After a few days, I usually get a phone call telling me how amazed they are.

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