Noticing Kids' Good Behavior

By Caitlin Bootsma

I'm going to be honest here. My three-year-old has written on almost every wall in the house. And, some floors. When I see her with a drawing utensil, I have to keep myself from cringing. "She's three," I tell myself. "She'll stop eventually." Yet, it can be a challenge with kids of all ages to build them up and encourage them in their "good" behaviors, when sometimes their past misdeeds come to mind and negatively influence your thinking.

We know that the encouragement of parents and other caring adults is vital to kids. So what can we do when we're not always feeling so warm and fuzzy towards the kids in our care, even though we love and care for them very much?

One concrete action we can take is to give kids specific positive feedback when we witness them doing well. For example:

  • "Great job taking care of your little brother when he wanted to get down from the playset."
  • "I can tell you have been working really hard to memorize these prayers."
  • "I'm really impressed with how diligent you were when you tried again on those math problems that were difficult for you."
  • "I saw how hard it was for you to resist sneaking a cookie. I appreciate how honest you were by coming and asking me for one instead."
  • "You did an excellent job of sharing the crayons with your friends today."

There are many ways to praise good behavior—doing this immediately is a great way for kids to connect your words to their actions. With the children in your care, you may also consider recalling their good behavior before bedtime or at other reflective times as a family. Encouraging notes in their lunch boxes or left in their room can also bring about great fruit.

When my 3-year-old makes a stick drawing of me, with a big smile and wild hair, I try to say, "I love this drawing you made me. Drawings are so nice when they are on paper." And it's true! Maybe next time she'll decide to make art on paper instead of the house. Whether they change their behavior immediately or not, kids will internalize the fact that their parents and other caring adults love and support them, championing their good behaviors and easily forgiving their mistakes.

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