“Thank you for not poking your neighbor with scissors.”
“You should be proud of the way you stayed calm when those mean things were said about you.”
During my first year of teaching, I quickly learned I was not ready for the challenges ahead of me. I knew all about lesson plans and seating charts, but I wasn’t prepared for fistfights and defiant seventh graders.
My school brought in a psychologist to assist the teachers and restore order to our classrooms. His approach was called “Nurtured Heart.” It was all about praising the positive (even if there was little to be positive about) and ignoring the negative. He explained that children act out to gain attention, and if I gave attention to the kids behaving well, negative behavior would stop and positive behavior would increase. I was skeptical, but desperate. It was hard to ignore a pencil being flung across the room, but I ignored that behavior and praised the rest of the class for staying on task. Multiply this instance by 1,000 every class period of every day and that’s what I did. Of course there were consequences for negative behavior, but they were swift and involved little interaction.
What does this have to do with parenting? The Nurtured Heart approach works on your own kids, too!
Try it tonight. Praise one of your kids for putting his napkin on his lap at dinner and watch the others do the same immediately. Just be prepared for them to request your praise as well. Or, tell your kids it’s pajama time. Watch as one shuffles off to her bedroom while the other two ignore your request – until you praise the one child who is doing what you asked. Just like that, what would’ve been a twenty-minute battle has now turned into a fun, positive jammie race.
Even older kids who know what you are doing still can’t help but participate. Everyone likes to be told they are doing a great job.
Aren’t you glad you took a minute out of your busy day to read this column? Good for you! Well done!
See what I mean?