In the Liturgy of Domestic Church Life, the Rite of Relationship is concerned with modeling Christ’s love in everything we do in the home. How can we, as parents and
kids, challenge ourselves to stop settling for the love that comes naturally to us, and intentionally use this moment to live more like Jesus.
Gentle discipline is one of the four ways families can celebrate the Rite of Relationships (along with prioritizing family time, extravagant affection, and promptly, generously, and consistently responding to each other’s needs). “Catching your kids being good” is a powerful tool of gentle discipline.
It’s easy to fall into the bad habit of exclusively pointing out when kids fail to meet our expectations. A much better approach is to note good behavior with small gestures of affection and affirmation. Studies consistently show that simple, positive reinforcement produces consistently better outcomes than punishments and consequences (Dwyer, Dweck, and Carlson-Jaquez, n.d.). Your child wants nothing more than to see the light of approval in your eyes.
You don’t have to throw a parade everytime your child does something that pleases you but remarking on good behavior lets them know that you’re actually paying attention AND that you glad to see them succeed. Here are some examples of catching kids being good.
“I really like the way you guys are playing together. You’re really good at sharing!”
“It means so much to me when you just start picking up your toys on your own. I love how responsible you are.”
“I know that you’re frustrated, but I see how hard you’re trying to be respectful anyway. That really means a lot to me. Thank you.”
“I can see from the look on your face that your homework is really tough tonight. I really admire the way you’re sticking with it through. That’s really impressive.”
In each of the above examples, the parent remarked on a desireable behavior that occured spontaneously and complimented the child for the virtue that the child was displaying. Doing this also helps you deal with times your kids aren’t behaving well. How? Because they’ll know exactly what you mean—from experience–when you ask them to be “better sharers,” or show more responsibility, respect, or stick-to-itiveness. They won’t just understand the words. They will be able to relate to the specific behaviors associated with them because you took the time to punctuate their successes.