In life, at all ages, there is one, absolute and common rule. Do good and good things will happen. Do bad and bad things will happen. As parents, we want this to be our guiding principle for disciplining our children. Reward is the outcome when our children are doing good. Punishment is the consequence when they are doing bad. For some reason, most parents are more tuned in to the doing bad part of being a child. It takes effort to catch our children being good.
Ten year old Nick has been re-writing his spelling words for 20 minutes now. After supper, he scooted to his room, turned off his electronics, and got down to homework without even being told to do so. His mom peeked in his doorway and smiled at him. He’s so cute when the tip of his tongue sneaks out the corner of his mouth as he is concentrating.
Just then, Nick catches his mom watching him. “What??” and he frowns, “Leave me alone.” “Careful, son. Watch your tone,” mom scolds. Nick frowns, throws his pencil down, and stomps past his mom in silence to use the bathroom.
Mom just blew a perfect opportunity to catch Nick being good. In such circumstances, I encourage parents to use what is called “The Sandwich Effect.” When you find a need to correct your child’s behavior or attitude, put the caution between two praise comments, like two slices of bread with meat in between.
As Nick breezed by her, mom could have said, “Aww. You are knocking out those spelling words. I bet you do great on the test tomorrow.” That’s a praise comment. Follow it with a caution, “Not sure how the attitude fits in here. I didn’t mean to break your concentration.” And finish with another praise comment, “I’m so proud of you for tackling these spelling words on your own. Let me know if you want me to quiz you later.”
The two praise comments for every caution or correction is a good ratio to follow. Over time, you get tuned in to catching your child being good, and your child receives the criticism without making matters worse. Kids always test the limits and, by nature, can wear us out. In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul cautions children to obey their parents, as the right thing to do, and parents to not provoke their anger, but bring them up in the ways of the Lord. The best way to do that is to catch them being good