When I heard a parenting expert that I follow on Instagram (@simplyonpurpose) suggest this as a strategy for ending unwanted behavior in toddlers and preschoolers, for some reason, it really struck a chord. Could it be that simple? It was the exact opposite of the approach my husband and I had been taking with challenging behaviors – like hitting, whining, biting, tantrums, etc. – that had crept up in our home during that season of two kids under three.
Whenever something happened, we addressed it right away, and sometimes, voices were raised or there was tension in the air. Not surprisingly, we were unsuccessful in ending some of these behavioral challenges.
I’ve been looking to positive parenting concepts for inspiration on how to do better and be better in the hopes of creating a more joyful and peaceful home.
The more research I did about this concept – and the behavioral science behind it – the more it made sense.
If the #1 reinforcer for a child’s behavior is parental attention, what would happen if undesirable (and primarily inconsequential) behaviors were simply ignored?
Not ignoring the child, but ignoring the behavior. And if the child did not receive any kind of reaction or attention as a result of the behavior, would it go away? That’s the concept. According to @simplyonpurpose, “Parents will look through a field of flowers and find a weed. And then they’ll water it.” Instead, she suggests that we, “Look through the weeds until you find the flower. And then PICK IT.”
This really made me think. Have I been too quick to get upset with my child when he grabs a toy from his sister, instead of heaping on the praise when he gently whispers, “Take my hand, bub,” and helps her to her feet after she trips and falls? Do I spend more time explaining to my child why he should NOT do something than praising him for the many things he does right? Some days, yes.
We recently started “Caught you being kind” charts for each of my kids (now preschoolers). Each time I spot them doing a random act of kindness, they get a sticker on their chart and some positive reinforcement from us. As they accumulate stickers, they get to pick out a small toy or book, choose the family movie for our Friday night movie, or something else that makes them feel special. It took a week or two to catch on, but now that we’re regularly watering the flowers instead of the weeds, I can see my kids thinking a bit more about their actions and seeking ways to be kind to themselves and others.