Everyone is finally well at our house! Little Guy is still getting teeth, which he is not fond of, but otherwise we are healthy and happy. And not only have I NOT been sleeping in a crib, Little Guy slept through the night for the first time this week. I was terrified that something happened to him when I woke up (but when the terror wore off it was a great feeling)!
I was talking with another parent one day this week about something mundane, and suddenly heard my daughter include phrases that I had just used in my conversation in her play. I had no idea that she was actually listening. Not only listening, but understanding and incorporating my words into what she was doing.
Fortunately, I try to always speak in her presence as if she were listening intently, because she usually is. (Unfortunately, she is getting better at spelling, so my technique of saying that we’re going to “g-o o-u-t f-o-r- i-c-e c-r-e-a-m” doesn’t work quite as well as it used to). I don’t always succeed in taming my tongue around her. But, one thing that I have done with my speech that I believe has been quite successful is what I like to call “Bragging Rights.”
I’m not talking about telling everyone about how much my child can do, or how well she can do things. I probably do that unconsciously, like every other parent who thinks her kids are awesome and fantastically interesting. (Sorry if you’ve been subjected to it, but try and be patient with me – I’ll listen about your kid too, I promise). My “Bragging Rights” are actually comments that I make specifically for Little Girl to overhear.
I always try to give specific praise when my kids do something that I want them to repeat. “I really liked the way you left the playground without complaining. That gave us more time to do _____when we get home!” Or, “Thank you for listening to your body and going to the potty all by yourself without a reminder. That was a healthy thing to do!” Anyway, I decided that it might be even MORE effective if paired with a little bit of bragging. So, I take behaviors that I really like and I advertise them within earshot. I call my mom. “Mom! How are you? You’d be so proud of Little Girl today. She took turns on the bicycle with her friend today without being reminded.” Or when Daddy comes home, I drop a comment in about how she helped me at the store by following directions and picking things up for me.
I haven’t written about this until now because I wanted to see the technique in action before reporting about it. I would say that it is probably the most effective of the positive reinforcement tools; I can see out of the corner of my eye that she perks up her head a little when she hears her name, and then she has a little smile as she hears me pass on what she did. Every behavior I have “bragged” about has been repeated enough to become habit.
Unfortunately, I got the idea for this method from someone who was constantly putting down her child within earshot. “He just can’t concentrate. He isn’t my motivated child. He doesn’t stick with things.” He would stand and visibly cringe next to his mother with each passing comment. This woman’s eleven-year-old son was everything she said he was, but it made me wonder what came first – the behaviors or the speech? I think that kids are largely full of self-fulfilling prophecies. They have ears like hungry fruit bats and are always trying to hear what you have to say about them. Judging from my own experience, I think that a little love goes a long way. If that means bragging is OK for now, so be it.