Sincere approval communicated by parents to their children is as welcome as a summer rain on parched plants. Consistently catching children "doing good" and providing positive feedback, whether through a swift pat on the shoulder or a short "Way to go," conveys a job well done. Appropriately delivered parent approval, over the years, is a powerful determiner for kids making positive choices later in life.
Laying the Foundation
Master teachers apply an 8:1 ratio of positive-to-corrective feedback with students. They often refer to this practice as catching a student "doing good." Parents are the ultimate teachers of their children. As exasperating as kids can be at all ages, you have the opportunity to consciously establish a pattern of noticing the brief moments when your child makes a good choice, and expressing this to them. For instance: Three-year-old Amanda hands her younger cousin Ben a favored car to play with. Instead of letting this moment pass unnoticed, take a second to acknowledge it. Quick words of praise, "Amanda, sharing the car with Ben was a nice thing to do," serve many important parenting purposes. Among them, sharing parent approval for their choice helps your child begin fostering a feel for appropriate decisions versus poor choices. In this example, the choice focused on proper social interactions.
Perfecting the Process
How do you create a new habit? Try employing the new behavior on 21 occasions over a short period. Pursue practice opportunities on the home front for you, as the parent, to catch your child "doing good." For instance, 13-year-old Gregg enjoys backyard coaching his younger brother in baseball. Catch Gregg helping his sibling, and give him a thumbs-up. Make looking for opportunities to communicate parent approval a daily priority. Establishing a consistent pattern of displaying parent approval provides important feedback on good-decision-making to the kids.
The Feedback Loop
If you share parent approval but get a blank look from your child for your efforts, take a moment to briefly explain the ramifications of her decision-making. The younger the child, the simpler the terms. Amanda might not readily understand why giving the car to Ben was nice. An effective explanation could be, "Amanda, look how Ben's smiling. When you shared your car, he was happy." For pre-teens and teens, a more effective approach is to open up the discussion by asking your child, "What did you do? Why was it a good decision?" Guiding the soon-to-be-young-adult through a reasoning process with them verbalizing what happened can be more valuable than you doing all of the talking.
Generalizing: Practice Opportunites Outside the Home
Learning begins in the home. Providing parent approval that fosters good decision-making by your kids is one important concept that commences at home. Once you have established a pattern of communicating parent approval for kid-initiated decisions on the home front, watch for opportunities to deliver parent approval of your child in the community. As your 17-year-old decides on his first car purchase or your rambunctious 4-year-old wavers grabbing for fruit in the grocery store, continue monitoring their choices, and communicate approval for "doing good" while taking a moment for feedback on less-than-positive decisions. These are small parenting steps that, when consistently employed, will reap huge benefits by both you and your kids. Consistently applied parent approval positively affects your kids' decision-making abilities.