How to Improve Your Child’s Behavior
One good deed will bring another.
“One good deed will bring another good deed,” says the Mishna (Ethics of the Father, 4:2). There is so much wisdom in this statement. The more we focus on the good, the more motivated we are to do more good. This Torah idea that good brings good is actually the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Psychology, a technique used to effectively combat anxiety, depression and a variety of other mental health issues.
“One good deed will bring another good deed” is also a very effective tool for correcting and reinforcing good behavior in our children. The key to raising good kids is to “look for the good” in them and in their behavior.
Parents have a tendency to focus on their children's negative behavior while overlooking the good. We can train ourselves to see good even in the little things our children do. Once we are focusing on their positive traits we can then compliment them, which will in turn nurture more positive behavior.
But there is a trick. When pointing out children’s good behavior we want to be as specific as possible and focus on the actual positive behavior that we are noticing. Phrases like “great job” or “good boy” are too general and don’t work. In the long run it just makes children feel more insecure and less capable.
Here are some examples of how we can use this technique to help our children improve their behavior in many different areas.
To stop difficult behavior:
Instead of focusing on the negative: “You can never take ‘no’ for an answer.”
"You were upset that you could not get a cookie at the bakery. You asked a lot of times, I said ‘no’ a few times and then you did not ask again. You were able to calm down after a few minutes.”
To handle sibling rivalry:
Instead of focusing on the negative: “Why is your first reaction to always hit your brother? Why can’t you just tell him what you want?”
"I saw you raise your hand to smack him. Then you put your hand down. You remembered not to hit."
To limit temper tantrums:
Instead of focusing on the negative: “You get upset about the silliest things!”
"You were so angry and upset that you couldn't have a Popsicle before dinner. After you cried for a bit you were able to pull yourself together and come to dinner."
To encourage learning:
Instead of focusing on the negative: “You spend so much time learning about cars, instead of doing your schoolwork!”
"You really like to learn about things that interest you. You use the Internet, the library and you ask questions to get the information you want. You are learning how to research different subjects. That will be good for when you are an adult"
To encourage kindness:
Instead of focusing on the negative: “Why can’t you just share all of your toys with Sara?”
"You gave Sara one of your dolls. That doll is one of your favorites. That is sharing. You were being kind."
To encourage good manners:
Instead of focusing on the negative: “Why do I always have to remind you to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’?”
"You said ‘please’ when you ordered your ice cream and ‘thank you’ when you got it. You know how to be polite."
Using the concept of “One good deed will bring another good deed” or "looking for the good" can be a game-changer in our parenting. It gives us a better perspective and generates a tremendous feeling of positivity. It transforms potentially ugly and harmful interactions into positive relationship building moments. And you are modeling to your children how to focus on people's positive behavior and maintain an optimistic attitude. You can’t get more positive than that.