Assume a “Good” Child
Assuming your child is a “good” kid is part of setting your child up for disciplinary success, and is a big element of positive discipline. Nobody wants to be “bad,” and every human being wants approval.
Kids are as likely to rise to meet your expectations as a helium balloon will float from a toddler's hand. (They'll also sink to meet your expectations like a dropped Rolex will fall to the ocean floor.) What you expect, you get. Assume that you have a well-behaved child, and your child will generally meet your expectations. If you assume negative behavior, I guarantee that that's what you'll get.
Tales from the Parent Zone
All kids are driven by the need for approval—if not from their parents or school, then from their friends. Bobby got nothing but criticism from his dad, and his teachers all considered him a disruptive influence. Yet to his friends, Bobby was brave, noble, and true, and they let him know it. (Guess who he listened to when things got rough? Obviously, his friends rather than his parents or teachers.)
Tales from the Parent Zone
I assume my daughter will behave in grocery stores, and most of the time she does. There are always glitches, though—we're talking about kids, and kids test their parents. Just the other day I had to drag Annie down from the high shelf she'd scaled with a package of Skittles clenched in her teeth. This was totally unacceptable behavior! (And she was tired and angry at me for rushing her.)
Here are a few ways to assure that you're assuming yours is a well-behaved child:
- Before you go on an adventure, don't present a list of negative behaviors you don't want the child to do. Assume she will be well behaved.
- Reinforce the assumption of “good” by noticing out loud what she is doing well.
- Don't confuse good with perfection. A child is childish, expect nothing less! She's acting appropriately when she pushes you to the limit, experiments with rebellion, repents and surprises you with kindness, sweetness, and responsibility, and then suddenly gets wild again.
- Assume, if she behaves badly, that there is a reason for her behavior. Is she hungry, tired, overwhelmed, unready to deal with this experience? Is she trying to communicate this to you but having a hard time expressing that in words?
Assume a Resourceful Child
Expect and trust that your child is capable and resourceful, and avoid doing for the child what she can do for herself. Rely on her to excel—and let her show you she can. Children feel great about themselves when they can. “I can do it, Mommy!” a toddler will announce. “Am I old enough to do it?” an older child might ask. When you do too much for the child, when you correct her actions, you send her the message that she is inadequate. The parent who “rescues” too much, who doesn't allow his child to try and fail, is being unfair to the child's abilities. No, this doesn't mean having a baby, and then throwing it to the wolves as soon as it can walk. Of course not. But even very young children can begin to build skills toward taking care of themselves.
Here are some tips for growing a capable child:
- Instead of stepping in and taking over, check with him. Ask, “How are you doing?” or “Would you like help?”
- Let him figure it out, take risks, explore life.
- Encourage his growth, and discuss his ideas with him.
- Don't push him. Keep expectations appropriate for him, and celebrate his successes.
- Don't patronize or diminish him, his capabilities, or his accomplishments.