I was a school teacher for nine years. I loved it. It was stressful and challenging, yet very rewarding when I saw positive change in a student. In my final four years I taught teenagers, all of whom had experienced years of academic failure. Also, they’d received plenty of attention for inappropriate behavior and bad decisions, so that as they entered high school, my students tended to already be “known” by the principal.
Outwardly, their personality exuded indifference. Looking them in the eye, I saw defeat and defiance.
In college, one of my professors instructed us to “catch” students being good or making good decisions. The means of reward – the spoken word. Words to express approval, admiration, value or compliment. Praise.
Words for that day. Words to stir and inspire children to make effort in the direction of whatever was praised … and discontinue inappropriate behavior.
I was humbled over and over again to realize how easy it was to take for granted the students who were behaving while giving more of my attention to students who were not obeying.
I think the same thing can happen in our homes.
It’s natural that we watch to see if our children are doing what we’ve told or taught them. The challenge is what we do with what we see.
We want to whet their appetite for wanting positive attention:
“When your brother teased you, you handled that well.”
“I like your friend who came over yesterday.”
“Mr. Jones told me how polite you were.”
“You’ve done your chores all week without any reminders.”
Praise is incentive to continue in the same stream of whatever brings recognition. Children like attention, so it makes sense to give them attention for desired behavior, rather than primarily attending negative behavior. Correction is still an essential, but we can spotlight good behavior.
“Thank you, Father, that You delight in us, affirming our efforts to submit to You. Teach us to delight in our children this way.”