• DtP

How encouragement can lead to better behavior


As my family and I were leaving my daughter’s concert, we were behind a young mom with her son and daughter. When they arrived at the doorway her little boy held the door open for us without being prompted by his mom. Our comments of “thank you” and “that’s very thoughtful of you” were greeted with a chubby cheeked smile and a glimmer of pride in his eyes. As I passed the mom I said to her, “What a sweet young gentleman you’re raising, you’re doing a great job!” She responded with a beaming smile and said, “Thank you! It’s not easy but I’m doing my best.”

When was the last time you were acknowledged for something you did well? How did this make you feel? Were you more likely to put ‘your best foot forward’ the next time because you knew your efforts were appreciated?

“What does this have to do with parenting?”

Parents frequently ask us how they can make their children behave better. At times parents lean on punishment to stop a behavior. While these methods may stop the behavior at the moment, they are only a short-term fix and can damage the parent-child relationship as well as the child’s self-esteem.

Parents have the ability to lay groundwork for positive, long-term changes in their child’s behavior by using the skill we call the “Art of Acknowledgement.” This does NOT refer to non-stop praise for everything your child does. Instead, you’re using your words to gently guide their choices. How will your child react if you say:

“Thank you for being such a great helper!”

“I really appreciate how kind you are being to your brother.”