Recognizing your child’s many positive behaviors throughout the day will make him feel good about himself. When a child feels good about himself, his self-esteem increases. When a child’s self-esteem increases, he has less need to act out for negative attention. Less negative attention-seeking behavior affects your child’s overall social functioning and academic performance.

Recognizing your child’s many positive behaviors throughout the day will make him feel good about himself. When a child feels good about himself, his self-esteem increases. When a child’s self-esteem increases, he has less need to act out for negative attention. Less negative attention-seeking behavior affects your child’s overall social functioning and academic performance.

Even if your child is very bright, he will not do as well in school as a child who may be less intelligent but who is able to maintain self-control, be respectful and function within set limits.

Some parents feel they should not have to teach their child what to do -- “Kids should just know how to behave.” Instead, children learn by watching, doing and listening. They try what they see. They say what they hear. Appropriate modeling, opportunity through exposure, and recognition of success is how children learn.

Some parents also feel that once they have told their child what is expected, that there is no need to recognize or praise the accomplishment. But children learn quickly when they are recognized for what they are doing well.

A little direction

There are approaches that will be successful and some that will increase negative attention-seeking behavior, so watch what you say and how you say it. The type of attention you provide will determine your child’s success.

“I’m not the problem here,” some parents might argue, “so why should I have to change what I’m doing and give him a pat on the back for every little thing he does well?”

My response is that although you may not be the problem, you can be the solution. Your child cannot change his behavior without your help.

So, jump in and commit to increasing his behavior by recognizing the positive things he does throughout the day. Recognize his efforts with verbal praise, physical touch and a tangible incentive.

I challenge all parents to take one week this summer and focus your attention on your child.

Pieces to the puzzle

Cut and save the flat front of your child’s favorite cereal box. On the reverse of the front draw simple puzzle shapes and number each piece, up to 20. Cut and place the pieces in an envelope. These puzzle pieces are the tangible incentive to give your child for really great behavior.

Define great behavior with your child. Ask if fighting with his brother will earn him a puzzle piece. Ask if sharing will earn him a puzzle piece. Explain that sharing, kindness and listening the first time will earn a puzzle piece.

Place your envelope of puzzle pieces in a small basket or box. As your child listens the first time, shares nicely or puts away a toy without a reminder, provide verbal recognition, a gentle touch to provide sensory communication, and a puzzle piece.

Do not use the pieces for bribery. Bribery doesn’t teach self-control or self-regulation.

As you recognize great behavior throughout the day and provide puzzle pieces, help to tape the pieces together. Your child will be invested in the puzzle as well as increasing his behavior, because he has your recognition and attention.

Choose a grand prize when puzzle is complete. An intrinsic reward might be making ice cream sundaes together, going for a hike or playing a board game of his choice. Those rewards are much more meaningful than an extrinsic reward, such as a toy.

Tips for success

Be sure to include the action when providing praise. Saying “good boy” is not enough to increase behavior. Your child needs to hear exactly what you are pleased about.

“I’m glad you threw out your popsicle stick” is recognition directly related to a behavior you want to continue. If you feel you shouldn’t have to praise that behavior, give a factual running narrative; “I see you threw your popsicle stick in the trash.” That tells your child that you are watching what he is doing and recognizing the good things.

When you give a puzzle piece, describe the action that earned it. Don’t ever threaten or take puzzle pieces away for bad behavior. Your child earned those pieces for specific behaviors, which you want to continue or increase.

Focus on the positives. You’ll be amazed how happy and well-behaved your child will become.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio, whose column appears weekly in The Repository. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton OH 44702.