Do you wish your child or children behaved better? Most of us do. While there’s always room for improvement, some children misbehave more than others. So, what motivates them to misbehave? Stop and ask yourself these questions, “Is my child motivated by attention? Do they exhibit attention-seeking behavior?” While not all children misbehave to get attention, ALL children want attention.
Focus on the Positive, Feed Positive Outcomes
By now you are probably familiar with the concept that by simply focusing on the positive, you actively feed positive outcomes. By focusing on the GOOD behavior your child exhibits, you actually encourage it. Does that seem counterintuitive? If so, here’s why. Most of us were conditioned by our own parents to attend to negative behavior. Many of us never actively received attention for good behavior because our parents expected it, and in turn, we expect it from our children.
Here’s why that doesn't work.
Just as focusing on the positive feeds positive outcomes, focusing on negative behavior actually encourages it because attention is given. We ignore good behavior and we snap to attention when our children misbehave. It's simply easier to focus on what you DON'T want. And that is why children that desire attention from their parents are encouraged to misbehave more. It's how they get you to pay attention to them. Attending to positive behavior is easy. What’s hard is doing it consistently. First, you must be open to making changes. Taking on a new style of parenting with an open mind is critical to your success in employing it. One of the biggest hurdles I've encountered in convincing parents to change their behavior is helping them to see how their behavior influences their children's behavior. If you can grasp the idea that good and bad behavior revolves around your own choices and actions as the parent, then it's easier to understand how – by controlling what behavior you attend to, you can control the behavior that you see.
How to Attend to Positive Behavior
For starters, compliment it when you see it. Make a fuss about how GOOD it is to see good behavior from them. Praising your child for sitting on the furniture (rather than jumping on it) not only shows them what you want, but it also serves their need of receiving attention, and thereby reinforces the positive behavior.
What is AFP?
Attention-Focused Parenting (AFP) is a parenting philosophy that focuses on using positive attention to increase positive behavior. It is a way of conceptualizing behavior as a response to attention, that enables and EMPOWERS parents to modify their attention-giving in a way that promotes prosocial behavior and dissuades misbehavior. Research shows that parents who actively look out for positive behavior report a decrease in negative behavior. This in turn creates more positive behavior, and thus more opportunities to celebrate good behavior, encouraging more good behavior – a sustainable cycle.
The AFP Difference
AFP is centered around the idea that in order to change a child's behavior, it's important to first change the parent’s behavior. It provides a unique lens for looking at behavior and how it’s created, and offers a real-world and intuitive recipe for how to manage it. AFP has been found to be effective in empowering parents to make the changes necessary to get the results that they want – better behaved children to celebrate and encourage.
It Begins with You
As a parent, at the end the of the day any changes that you want to see in your child’s behavior begin and end with you. Why? Because children don’t control their lives. They don’t control the food that they eat nor the clothes that they wear. They don’t control the schools they attend nor the time that they go to bed. The only thing they can control is their behavior. And they will exert that control to the best of their abilities. It’s up to you, the parent, to employ AFP and encourage more of the behavior you want to see. All that is needed is a willingness to change your focus from the negative to the positive and celebrating the good behaviors that you want to see, instead of the bad behaviors that you don't. Try it today! Is your child doing something positive right now? Give them attention! You'll be surprised at how effective a well-timed hug, kiss, or display of affection can be at creating the behaviors that you want to see.