The most common question parents ask me is how do I REALLY change my child’s behavior for the better? Many parents feel like they are beating their head up against the wall because even we adults know behavior can be incredibly difficult to change.
We adults understand how hard it is to change our behavior because habits, tendencies, and personality preferences can seem deeply entrenched in our daily repertoires of behavior.
Often misbehaviors of our children can seem as persistent as a bad habit or a closely guarded personality trait we do not want to let go of.
And while motivational speeches, eye to eye “fireside chats”, referral to certain values or religious beliefs, and consequences for misbehavior all have a role in raising a child, I find they are often not enough to have a truly sustainable impact on your child.
The toughest misbehavior or skill gaps to ”fix” are not amenable to episodic interventions like those named above.
True behavioral change most often occurs when there is a systematic approach that goes far beyond even the most reliable systems of consequences and rewards. We adults all know that when we have a bad habit it almost feels as if it is an automatic kind of behavior that we are not even aware of until we have once again “misbehaved”. So consequences and rewards often occur too late, after the behavior.
As a behavioral scientist and child expert with over 10 years of experience in reviewing scientific research on behavioral change, as well as working in the trenches with parents, I have found a critical part of helping children eradicate misbehavior or fill in critical skill gaps is to have them create a daily and sensitive radar system that will help them catch their behavior BEFORE it manifests.
This radar system comes in the form of a set of daily affirmations that the child or adolescent will read to themselves early in the morning, sometimes right when they wake up. These affirmations remind your child or adolescent what they need to be careful not to do and what they will focus on doing. Rather than being boring and abstract, we (my clients and I) write these affirmations in a compelling and dynamic way that engages your child’s passions.
Examples of daily affirmations children have written and used successfully:
-whenever I have a thought or feeling, I will first run it through a filter to ensure I express myself in the most likable way possible
-I will remember that being listening to others will help my friendships be strong and reliable
-I know that when I use curse words it negatively affects my reputation with other kids and adults around me
-I will avoid trying to over control games because that will help others learn to like me more
The next time you catch your child or adolescent exhibiting of behavior that appears to be a pattern of behavior, consider the power of sitting down with your child and drafting a set of affirmations that you can let them feel like they are creating.
Your child does not need to have a problem in order to have a set of daily affirmations. Some of the gifted and exceptionally talented children that I mentor and coach use these affirmations to accelerate their strengths and minimize their skill gaps.
Even the leaders of large and small organizations I consult with use the same method not only willingly but joyfully. What they understand is that it is these affirmations, and not motivational talks with good intentions, improve their behavior the most.
Why not use a consistent intervention for a consistent problem? You may just find yourself so drawn to this idea that you create your own set of daily affirmations. I’ve had my own set for years and I continue to modify them as some problems disappear and new ones occur.
The people I know who grow the most are willing to wake up in the morning and face their issues, every day. Teach your child to do this, and you’ll give them the gift of insight, maturity, and sustainable growth even in the face of the toughest growth challenges.