Catch Them Being Good

Catch Them Being Good

My mother used to say this all the time, “You just have to catch them being good.” She didn’t know at the time that she was a behavioural psychologist. She just believed that the best way to raise children was to be good to them, to look for what is good in them and to affirm them and their efforts to do better no matter what mistake in living they had made. She was ahead of her time, an uneducated woman who could teach most parents and teachers a thing or two about raising children.

Catch them being good. Why is this behaviour science? It’s behavioural science because it represents the laws of behaviour change. If you want a child to exhibit a particular behaviour you must reward every occurrence of that behaviour, or a reasonable facsimile of the behaviour, every time it occurs. Behaviour increases when it is rewarded. The reward doesn’t have to be tangible. In fact it is probably better if it isn’t tangible. What are tangible rewards? Things like candy, time off from homework, stickers on school work. Things like this aren’t necessary because all proper behaviour is its’ own reward. Human beings are wired to want to please the adults who are significant to them. It’s the way we were made. This is a neurobiological fact, not a fiction.

When children are told you are please to see them trying to do good, or you are proud when they have done something you want them to be doing more often, they will naturally try to produce more of that behaviour. Thank them for putting their breakfast dishes in the sink before leaving for school and they are more likely to put the dinner dishes in the sink that evening. Thank them for picking up clothes on the floor tonight and they are likely to pick them up the next night.

I don’t know why it is we get so involved in scolding children all the time; why we punish them so often and encourage them so little. When children are noticed only when they do something wrong they will do more wrong to get noticed. It’s a simple fact that no child can endure being ignored, no child wants to hear day in, day out they are bad or did something wrong. Children want affirmation, crave being valued and are starving for love and affection.

Yes, catch them being good at home and in the classroom. Try it for one week and then watch for the results. You will not only see your children or pupil being good more often, you will notice that you are more and more growing to love and esteem them for what they are-children.