Part III: How to survive and thrive as a parent: Reinforcing the good

This is the third in a three-part blog series.

By Elissa Gonzalez, M.D., M.P.H.
Pediatric Resident, PGY3
Baylor College of Medicine
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

In this final blog in my series, let’s explore ways that you can maintain your child’s good behavior through positive comments and by making the most of the time you spend with each other.

1. Praising versus rewarding
2. Special time
3. Modeling

Praising and Rewarding. When children do the things they are asked or even when they are not asked, praise them. Try and work on enforcing intrinsic appraisals like, “I’m so proud of you for organizing the game room. That took a lot of hard work.” When your child cleans their room, talk about how good it makes them feel and how there is room to play and walk. Discuss that their belongings are now organized and easier to find. Help them be proud of themselves for good behavior, because in the real world they will not get a cookie for making their bed or cleaning their car. In addition, we all know lollipops only work for so long until they move on to bigger and more expensive things! Use extrinsic rewards like toys, cookies, candy, and ice cream sparingly.

Special Time. Provide positive individual attention to each child daily, or when time permits depending on your household size. No matter the age, spending 10 minutes alone with your child can mean the world to them. Giving them that sense of importance in an otherwise chaotic day, can change the way they interact with everyone and view their existence. Simple words such as, “I saw you helped out your sister today. You didn’t have to do that, but you did. Thank you!” Or consider asking, “If you could be anyone today, who would it be?” This is your time to know your child and make them feel important; make it a priority in your schedule.

Modeling Good Behaviors. This will help solidify expectations for a child. If you throw trash outside, do not expect them to help clean up the environment. They are learning about good and bad behaviors from you. We are not perfect, and we make mistakes. Modeling mistakes and solutions as well can be powerful in helping them understand that mistakes happen and admitting to them and fixing them is the right thing to do.

You are brave. You are knowledgeable. You are amazing. Parent on!

Dr. Elissa Gonzalez is a third-year pediatric resident at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Development and since has tried to incorporate the whole child approach in her practice. Dr. Gonzalez’s research and training has been in the areas of pediatrics and prevention of diseases since her passion is in the areas of working with children and families. She obtained a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. During her free time, you can find her riding bikes at the many parks in town or just walking around the farmers market with her husband and children.

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