Being firm doesn’t mean being negative.
Back in 2005, we got a Lhasa Apso puppy who we named Buckles. It was the first foray into parenthood of any sort for my husband and me.
One of the things we learned quickly as we were training the puppy is that positive reinforcement was effective. Basically, if you give a puppy a treat when he does something he should be doing then he will quickly learn to keep doing it. It worked well on Buckles. He grew into an incredibly good and well-behaved dog.
The positive reinforcement techniques also worked well for my husband and me in that they were our style anyway. Neither of us are yellers or gruff people. We were firm with Buckles as he was learning, but yelling and terrifying him wasn’t our style.
Applying positive reinforcement to our children
When our daughter was born four years later, we learned positive parenting also worked for toddlers and kiddos. Of course we didn’t give our daughter a treat every time she did something right, but we did do things like gently correct her, redirect her attention and praise her when she did something she was supposed to be doing. We continued with the same strategy for our son, who was born three years later.
Again, positive parenting fit our personalities and it worked for our kids. Just like with the dog, we were firm but focused on positive reinforcement of good habits rather than misbehavior.
Now our children are 6 and 9, and they aren’t perfect, but they are both well behaved. They both get many compliments from their teachers and other adults on their behavior. I’m thankful for that.
I won’t pretend like we are always positive, never raise our voices or get frustrated. We 100 percent do. After adding a new puppy into the mix of our family life last month, we are running a bit shorter on energy and patience around here.
But, we do our best to continue with positive parenting of both our kids and our new puppy. We strive to tell our kids what they’re doing well along with what they need to work on. We compliment them. We thank them. We recognize them.
We all love to be recognized for what we’re doing and what we’re doing well. Our kids aren’t any different. My job isn’t to make everything in my children’s lives positive or gush on with them about how awesome they are and not correct them when they need to be. But my job also isn’t to break their spirits, shame them or discourage them.
Teaching our kids about positive reinforcement
Now we are going through the puppy training stuff all over again with our puppy, Pixel. Our children are getting to see a bit of the other side of the situation. They are learning to correct, redirect and praise progress.
They’re caring, loving kids as they are helping train the puppy. Did positive reinforcement make them that way? Maybe. It certainly didn’t hurt. They have a lot left to learn. My husband and I have a lot left to teach them, but I hope they can always know we are their biggest cheerleaders, their life coaches and want them to grow into the people God created them to be!