You love your child with all your heart! 

Do you know what mental, emotional, growing state of mind your child is in? 

Do you know the right message you child needs?

Do you know what to say at what age to improve your daughter's self-esteem? 

Of course, you love your children unconditionally. So it's a good thing to know what message you need to send during a particular age group.

According to Jean Illsley Clarke, here are the stages in a child's life (from psychologists who study the development from baby to adulthood: 

Name of Stage:                                     BEING
Timeline:                                        Birth-6months

Parents Job to Think & Say:

I'm glad you are alive!

I love you and care for you willingly.

You belong here.

What you need is important to me.

Grow at your own pace.

Name of Stage:                                     DOING
Timeline:                                        6 months-18 months

Parents Job to Think & Say:

I will support and protect you.

You can explore and experiment.

You can be interested in everything.

I love you active and when you are quiet.

You can do things as many times as you need.

I like to watch you initiate, grow and learn.

Name of Stage:                                     THINKING
Timeline:                                         18 months-3 years

Parents Job to Think & Say:

You can ask for help.

You can know what you want.

I'm glad you are starting to think for yourself.

You can become separate from me.

I will continue to love you.

It's OK for you to be angry and say, No!.

I won't let you hurt yourself or others.

You can test your limits as much as you need.

Name of Stage:                                IDENTITY & POWER
Timeline:                                              3 years-6 years

Parents Job to Think & Say:

You can try out different roles. 

All of your feelings are OK with me.

You can explore who you are. 

You can find out who other people are. 

You are powerful and you 

ask for help at the same time. 

You can discover the results of your behavior. 

You can learn what's pretend and what's real.

Name of Stage:                                   STRUCTURE
Timeline:                                          6 years-12years

Parents Job to Think & Say:

You can think for yourself.

You can learn from your mistakes. 

You can think before you say yes or no.

You can learn what rules help you live with others and what happens when you break 'em.

You can ask for my help if you're distressed. 

I love you even when we differ.

Name of Stage:                      Identity, Sexuality, & Separation 
Timeline:                                           12 years-18 years


Parents Job to Think & Say:

You can learn to use old skills in new ways.

You can develop your own interests, relationships, and causes.

You can grow in your maleness or femaleness.

You can still be dependent at times and ask me for help. Ask for my support.

You can learn the difference between sex, caring, and nurturing. Be responsible for your own needs and behaviors.

I look forward to knowing you as an adult.

My love is always with you.

Name of Stage:                          Interdependence
Timeline:                                           18+ years

Parents Job to Think & Say:

You can trust your inner wisdom. 

You can say your hellos and goodbyes to people, dreams, roles, and decisions.

Your love matures and expands.

You can be uniquely yourself. 

You can honor the uniqueness of others.

You can build commitments to your values, friends, family, and causes.

You can be creative, competent, productive.

You are lovable at any age.

Parents learn that love takes effort. It's not always easy. You are willing to put yourself in someone else's shoes, walk that extra mile, make sacrifices in your own life for the sake of your children. The rewards are worth the journey!

Isn't parenting grand? To shape another person's mindset is an exquisite feat when done right.
 Be Joyful. Share. Love. Laugh. Play. Inspire. Be Authentic.
Parents sometimes forget how many different ways we can teach our children new things. While this blog covers #1 verbal praise, there are many tools in the parenting toolbox:
  1. Verbal Praise
  2. Recognition
  3. Encouragement
  4. Social Reinforcement
  5. Extra Privileges
  6. Edible Reinforcement
  7. Physical Praise 
  8. Positive Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviors
  9. Shaping
   10. Chaining

Okay, the vocabulary may be new to you, but not its content. Many parents use techniques without knowing what behavioral scientists call it. In the next few blogs, I'll cover the lists (above & below).
    Other tools in the world of psychology include the following techniques and tools plus a few unique approaches:
  • Verbal prompt
  • Gestural prompt
  • Physical prompt
  • Modeling
  • Role-modeling
  • Token Economy 
  • Fading
  • Redirect/Distraction
  • Reality-based Statements
  • Complex Guidelines
Listen up, parents: here's a quick summary of positive payoff approaches.

If you want to strengthen a good behavior, then use positive reinforcement, which is defined as adding something to motivate your child and increase the likelihood they'll repeat that behavior.

Examples include these 10 approaches listed above.

What are the best ways to use praise?

  1. Be specific. 
  2. Be genuine.
  3. Recognize effort.
  4. Praise the behavior, not the child.
  5. Show trust in your child's decisions.
  6. Accept your child for what he is, not for what he does.

Do say, Your room looks great. It looks like you worked hard.

Don't say, You're such a good boy for cleaning your toy-box/room. This gives a double message. Is your son not a good person when his room is dirty? That's a more typical scenario. Value your son, not his behaviors.

When my kids were growing up, they knew there were two standards:

At our house, we had 1) Mom-clean and 2) Grandma-clean standards. When grandma was visiting, the children saw me go to town and clean the entire house. My mom is half German. She grew up scrubbing the concrete surfaces on the front porch weekly. So they knew to Grandma-clean their rooms. Other times, if I had friends or family over, they'd ask me, Does my room have to be Grandma-clean?

Boy, were they relieved if I told them, No, just Mom-clean. I seriously don't remember them complaining too much before my mom's visits. Frankly, as a single parent of two children for over ten years, I had other priorities that occupied my brain. I am proud of myself now...because I keep my condo clean...really I do! :)

Only give praise when it's genuine and deserved. Otherwise, it leads to false confidence or arrogance. By praising a specific behavior, you call attention to your child's strengths. You indicate he/she has made a good decision. This builds self-confidence.

You decided to do an extra nice job cleaning your room today. Good decision. These words allow your child to value himself. While it's fine for children to want to please their parents, it's actually more important they work hard for themselves.

Instead of saying, I'm proud of you. Say, You can be proud of yourself. Or You should feel so proud inside right now. Nice job. Well done, sweetie.

In this way, your children internalize the message rather than relying on an external force for reinforcement. In short, your child develops higher self-esteem when they can measure skills & accomplishments by their own standards. 

Of course, most of us want to be the best possible parent we can be. With all the contradictory input we get from our parents, our friends, and even the experts, which way are we supposed to go?

Two things are sure, though: 1) All children want & need to be recognized for who they are as a blossoming soul; 2) Every child needs encouragement to become the best possible version of themselves. 

Children go through so-called growing phases when their brains are trying to sync with their bodies. Behaviors go haywire. Crankiness is at a high level. Perhaps shyness turns into aggressiveness if your child is being picked on at school (or a girl tries to kiss your son.) 

So, what's the best way to handle these transitions? These unwanted behaviors? First, you start with the positive, but it's a parent's responsibility to point out when a behavior is negative, saying, "That's inappropriate" or simply, "Try another way."

Recognition and Encouragement:
Recognition is when you simply acknowledge that your child is trying to help, for instance, when he's a toddler and helps you pick up 2 toys while you pick up the remaining 22 toys. Thanks, Emma, you can help clean up too!

Encouragement is a boost of motivation. Your words show that you support, trust, and believe in your child's abilities … even when he can't manage to clean his entire room by himself. It helps them face their stress and fears. 
Your words may motivate them to solve their own problem: 

  • Whatever you decide, I'm behind you.
  • I trust your decision.
  • Knowing you, I'm sure you'll figure it out.
  • You think about it. You'll do fine. 
  • You've made good decisions in the past. 

If you want to reduce a bad behavior, then use the following less positive methods:

1) Positive reinforcement to strengthen an opposite behavior; 
2) Extinction to eliminate any reward for misbehavior, or 
3) Consequence/Punishment.

Example 1:

To reduce a negative attitude, reward any sign of a positive attitude. To reduce the amount of time two siblings argue, call attention to the time when they are getting along. Hey, it's so good to see a brother and sister having fun playing a game together. Add an incentive. We'll all go to your favorite park if you another day without an argument.

Example 2:

Do not give in to your child's demands. Ignore your children (the best you can) when they try to get your attention in a negative way. Prompt a younger child to ask in a nice tone of voice. 

When you are in public, and they cause a scene by screaming for a candy bar, it's best to leave within a half minute of the incident (unless you can calm them down within 30 seconds). Leave the grocery store immediately. Walk them to the car. State in a calm voice that their behavior was not acceptable. Tell them that you will go back to the store later on. Do not specify when. Try it again after a few hours.

Say, We're starting fresh. Begin with a clean slate daily!  Don't remind your child of previous bad behaviors. 

Avoid reminding children of their negative behaviors earlier that day. Be satisfied with the ideal consequence you already gave them for screaming:

  1. Not getting a candy bar when they misbehaved,
  2. Leaving the store immediately, and
  3. Reprimanding them that their behavior was not acceptable. Remember, you're only disappointed in your child's behavior, not your child. Avoid saying anything negative about them being a bad person because that sends the wrong message. The store incident is done. Over. Kaput. End of story.
Now it's time to set up situations for your child to behave well. Our children were not put on this planet to please us or to make us happy. Parents are meant to guide and love, not guilt kids into good behavior. That's like a repressive regime. Total control.

Let's say you decide to go back to the store four hours later. Don't say, Now, we're not going to have another incident at the store where you scream, are we, Joey? His undeveloped brain only hears the words, store, and scream. Inadventertenly, your words set Joey up for failure. Your words echo in their immature minds. He's simply not capable of processing the question the way an adult would understand it. 

They may only process the words scream and store, which only sets Joey up for a repeat performance. Say, We're ready to go to the store now and have a good time. Let's get ready to go. Do you want to bring Teddy along?

Example 3:

An older child who comes home late may be grounded for a day or two. A child who breaks a home rule is confined for a short time period (A timeout). She may be restricted from a particular activity if it's a natural consequence of breaking a rule. 

In short, parents get the best response when they recognize good behaviors & encourage positive movement toward new skills & goals as well as regular chores & activities. Start with the positive and adjust when needed. 

Stay tuned for more parenting tools.