I started recently talking about The Incredible Years program. This week I want to bring you one of the basic concepts of the program: PRAISE.
Yep, that is is. Kinda plain and simple, but used in the right way it is an amazing tool to use with all people, not just challenging kiddos, or siblings, but adults as well, even co-workers.
The idea behind praise is to draw attention to the behaviors that you want to see. Human nature often has us giving attention to the unwanted behaviors. We want to say "Stop doing ______ (fill in the blank)" or yell "Don't do ______ (fill in the blank)". Which continues to give attention to that unwanted and annoying behavior. Which keeps that ugly cycle of bad behavior going on and on.
When using the concept of praise, you ignore "bad" behavior. Excluding any thing aggressive like hitting or biting. For the most part though the majority of unwanted behaviors can be ignored.
Yes, ignoring bad behaviors can be hard and challenging to do. I can't do it all the time and wouldn't except any human to be able to ignore all behaviors. We all have limits and come the end of the day I can't ignore a whiny kiddo always. Having a goal of ignoring most unwanted behavior and thinking in your head "ignore, ignore, ignore" really helps.
In our house you will now here a lot of praise. Sometimes it's just tossed out there from another room, kinda like drive-by-praise. Other times it more directed right at the kiddo. Praise is also like descriptive commenting. The more specific you are about what you are seeing and like the better. Good job and nice work are forms of praise, but pulling something out a bit deeper will get you a lot further.
"You two are playing great together."
"I love how you are sharing those toys."
"Your body is sitting so calmly at the table."
"I love hearing your quiet voice."
"You got into the car so fast."
"What a great listener you are."
"You are being so helpful by cleaning up these toys."
As we spend the day putting praise statements out the kids are hearing what we want them to do. NOT what we don't want them to do. The attention is put on the good things. Making the house so much more peaceful. I'm not depending and yelling at them to do stuff. I just praise the things that I like and want to see happen.
A great example of this is cleaning up.
When it is time to clean up, I get down on the ground and start. I'll praise myself for being helpful and cleaning up the mess. Generally both kids jump into action to help as well. People want to be praised and are motivated by praise. Let's say one of them (generally Adalyn), doesn't join the clean up force. I then lay the praise on Shane thick. How awesome he is doing. How fast he is. You get the idea. Four out of five times she will start cleaning up quick. The moment she does, I praise her a bunch.
Clean up has gotten so good with these kiddos now I really don't have to go through this whole process. They just do it. I still praise them, but can do it on a smaller leave since this general area is going so well.
You praise more heavily on the behaviors you want to see improved.
Recently, the kiddos were NOT getting along or playing well together. Kenny and I made a huge effort in praising (and rewarding the next step to this program) constantly and consistently every time we saw them talk nicely, share, play well or get along with each other. With just a day or so of heavy praise in that area there was major improvement. Just this morning I woke up to sounds of two kiddos playing together with out any fighting. What a great feeling! As soon as I could get myself out of bed I praised them.
It really is a simple and powerful tool. I'd say almost all behaviors can be changed with a huge dose of praise (and rewards...I'll get to that next time). It takes some time to change our habit of drawing attention to that "bad" behavior. When you can flip that little switch in your head, it feels pretty darn empowering.
Try spending today praising the people around you. I bet you'll feel just a bit lighter and happier come the end of the day.