On Changing Behavior

Human behavior is malleable and never more so than in children.  Every parent makes mistakes but it is never too late to make changes.  Use your parenting to model persistence and resilience to your child.  Get support when you need it.  Above all, do not get discouraged!

On Intrinsic Motivation

Children are born with an innate drive to learn.  Parents need to understand how to foster this intrinsic motivation rather than squelch it.  By learning about the three main factors that underlie internal motivation – autonomy, connection, and competence – parents can employ strategies for encouraging the development of each.

On Rewards

The use of extrinsic rewards can kill motivation, diminish performance, reduce creativity, encourage cheating, foster short term thinking, and become addictive.  However, there are circumstances where extrinsic rewards are very effective.  By reviewing the research showing when and how to use rewards, parents can learn to reward their children effectively.

On Setting Limits

It is hard sometimes to set limits and consistently enforce them for your children.  But beyond the sometimes chaotic and unpleasant household dynamic it creates, this approach leads to the underdevelopment of responsibility, impulse control and thoughtfulness; it teaches children not to believe what you say; and leaves children feeling a lack of concern and love.  By understand the effects your parenting choices have on your children and by examining your goals for your family, you can learn how to simplify and improve your daily family life.

On Motivation

All behavior is motivated.
A child always has a strategy and is the child’s best strategy at that moment.  But a child may be motivated by something different than what parents value or want!  The key is to uncover what the motivator is in order to change behavior.

On Praise

Praise can be dangerous if not used wisely. 

“No parent thinks, “I wonder what I can do today to undermine my children, subvert their effort, turn them off learning, and limit their achievement” (Carol Dweck) yet that is what praising performance over effort and fostering a fixed mindset do.  Understanding the consequences of praise will help you use it effectively.

On Self Esteem

Self esteem can not be bestowed from parent to child; it must be earned.  By overpraising and not supporting autonomy, parents actually lessen self esteem.  Learn how to help your child gain true self esteem through competence and confidence. 

On the Power of Attention

Parents’ attention is a hugely powerful tool.  It is common to focus on a child’s mistakes since these are the areas you wish to see change. And often parents are not even aware of how they are giving attention.   However, you will actually do much better to “catch them being good” since you will get more of the behaviors you are focused on, and there are better strategies for helping children learn from mistakes than focusing on them.

On Self Control

The ability to delay gratification – sometimes called self control – has huge long-term benefits for psychological health and achievement.  It is simple to encourage in children but our culture of affluence makes it difficult, particularly if you don’t know how to do it or what common tactics damage it.

On Self Identity

The key to lifelong psychological health is the development of a strong sense of self.  By understanding the ways to support your child’s self identity formation as well as the very commonly occurring mistakes that hinder this process, parents can promote healthy psychological development in their children.