To fertilize desired behavior requires thoughtfulness. We hope this simple acronym helps you throw a little “Miracle Grow” on your children’s wanted behavior. (These concepts are not meant to be a specific sequence, so mix up the order as appropriate.)
The ABC’s of Affirmation
ACTION – What positive actions did you observe? With a smile and clear eye contact, make specific statements that objectively describe what your child did or a positive attitude you observed.
Ex: “Wow, you stopped coloring and came quickly to clean up your backpack, jacket and books. You put them right where they belong!”
BENEFIT – What was the benefit? Point out natural benefits of the action or attitude to everyone involved, including the child. This builds wisdom about how life works and motivation to make wise choices.
Ex: “When you get off the computer quickly, it really helps keep things peaceful around here, and we don’t waste time discussing when your time is up.”
CHARACTER – What character did it require? Make a statement about maturity, being a “grown up thing to do”, and/or a specific character quality that was required. This builds a positive identity around what they’ve done, which is the key reason they’re more likely to repeat the wise choice the next time.
Ex: “It takes flexibility and self-control to stop doing something you love when it’s time to be done. That was very grown-up of you.”
Saying these examples requires less than 30 seconds. But what they do require is a committed desire to effectively encourage your child. Philippians 4:8 has inspired many parents – “…if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” If your child is struggling with a particular attitude or behavior, be on the lookout for small instances of even a tiny step forward in that area – “anything worthy of praise”. Then put some thoughtful detail into how you affirm your child. (Note: This helps with spouses and coworkers, too!)
This simple method can begin to change a family’s tone in a wonderful way. One challenging 10-year-old told his mom, “I noticed that you’re working hard to notice the things I do right, Mom.” It wasn’t long before he began to tell her he loved her in awkward (but adorable) first steps. Pretty big pay off for some simple ABCs!