Multiple studies have shown that warmth and affection in parent-child relationships is related to higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, academic competence, positive coping skills, and fewer psychological and behavior problems.
One way to build warmth with kids is by acknowledging the positive things they do each day. Positive reinforcement also helps create intrinsic motivation for a child's good behavior so he or she seeks good feelings (instead of just avoiding consequences for negative behavior).
Positive reinforcement works best when you:
A negativity bias is defined as the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature have a greater effect on one's mind and processes than do neutral or positive things. This factor makes it especially hard for parents to focus on what's going right when things are also going wrong.
However, research suggests that simply setting the goal of aiming for a ratio of 5 positive comments to every one negative can improve the family dynamic. Clear intentions and simple everyday routines can make it much easier to "catch kids being good."
1. Post-it Notes
Write your child's specific positive behavior on a simple post-it note and sneak it on their pillow, in their lunchbox, on the fridge, or on the bathroom mirror.
2. Dinner or Bedtime Review
Use dinnertime or bedtime to maintain a treasured ritual of pointing out 2 or 3 positive things each child has done that day.
3. In the Moment
An added bonus to focusing on the positives? It helps parents feel happier too.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, Ph.D. is an individual and couples counselor in Chicago's western suburbs. www.erinleyba.com. She is the author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents: 101 Ideas for Overcoming Fatigue, Stress, and Guilt - and Building a Life You Love (New World Library). Join her on Facebook or sign up to get free articles on parenting with mindfulness and joy.