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Positive Parenting: First steps to promote good behavior

What parents do when their child is not acting up may be the first step to promoting good behavior.
Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 8:00 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - ‘Sit still.’ ‘Don’t do that.’ ‘Don’t go over there.’ If you’re a parent, you’ve probably said these words before. What you do when your child is not acting up -- may be the first step to promoting good behavior.

They are cute, cuddly, and oh so curious. But young kids are not always on their best behavior.

“A lot of temper tantrums,” said parent, Monica Melendez.

“He was running under tables. He was kicking. He was very aggressive towards staff and other peers in the classroom,” shared Carrie Prose, who is a teacher.

“Those little kind of more troublesome behaviors can escalate later as they get older,” explained Ed Feil, PhD, Senior Research Scientist with Oregon Research Institute.

They can be at risk for later negative outcomes, such as school failures, criminal involvement, and even mental health problems. Developmental psychologist Ed Feil studies First Step Next, a school and home intervention program that redirects focus from negative behavior to more positive behavior.

“Even the kids with the most challenging behavior are typically doing negative behavior maybe a quarter of the time. So that gives you, as a parent or a teacher, 75 percent of the time to attend to that positive,” said Feil.

The intervention focuses on helping parents and teachers to ignore negative behavior and instead provide lots of positive feedback when kids are behaving well.

“With my own kids, when they’re sitting there playing quietly, I really want to kind of sit back and just take a breath, but that’s the time that I need to kind of go up and give them that positive attention and play with them,” said Feil. “When the child is behaving appropriately, that’s the time to intervene.”

Intervene by giving them a pat on the back or telling them what a good job they’re doing. The intervention also includes a green card game, which motivates kids even more by also including rewards.

“If you have a green card, you be good and get points. If you have a red card, you don’t get points,” said Jeremiah, a child who enjoys the game.

With enough points, a child gets to select a prize for the whole classroom. A study on First Step was conducted with preschoolers, parents and teachers.

“After receiving First Step as compared to control kids, they improved their positive social skills as well as decreased their negative behaviors,” said Feil.

“I learned to behave, listen and follow directions,” said Jeremiah.

Feil says the green card game can also be played at home.

And if there is a day that is not so successful …

“You can try again tomorrow,” smiled Jeremiah.

Another tip: parents, don’t tell your kids what not to do, distract them into doing a good thing and then praise them.

The “First Step Next” study was conducted with schools in Oregon, Illinois and Kentucky. Parents who took part in First Step also got a daily note from teachers on their child’s behavior for the day.

Copyright 2021 WILX & Ivanhoe Broadcast News. All rights reserved.

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