I’ve been writing a lot recently about how important it is to give positive attention to our kids. Children thrive on attention and if they can’t get it by being well behaved, they will get it by being naughty. As parents, I think we can all agree we’d rather have the former than the latter!
So today I want to give you as many ideas as I possibly can to give positive attention to your child.
Before I start, though, I want to give a few pointers on how to use positive attention in everyday situations.
What is positive attention?
When I use the phrase “positive attention”, I simply mean letting your kids know that you’ve noticed them.
We need to be constantly on the lookout for ways to affirm, encourage and build up our kids (because the world will do everything it can to knock them down). And when we spot an opportunity to engage positively or praise them, we need to grab it. Just something as simple as a nod of approval or a smile really can boost a child’s confidence.
How to use positive attention
Small but often
Positive attention isn’t about throwing a big party every time your child gets a certificate at school, or taking them on holiday because they passed their exams (although it’s fine to do these as well if you wish).
Instead, it’s about creating an environment of positive attention. It is just a normal, everyday part of being at home; a child steps through the door and instantly knows that they are cherished, accepted, valued, appreciated. And yes I know that this is a given for 98% of parents, but is it translating to our kids? How often do we take the time to TELL them specifically?
Positive attention is about letting our kids know, in no uncertain terms, that we see them and we treasure them.
If we can give positive attention before it’s asked for, it will mean even more to our little ones. Don’t wait until they ask you to look at their drawing – go over and ask to have a look yourself! This shows that you are genuinely interested in what they’re doing. Make the first move.
Some people worry that when we give positive attention, we are in danger of creating arrogant kids. But it’s important to remember that positive attention isn’t purely about praise – it can simply be a smile, a thumbs up, a kind word. We are just acknowledging our kids and, in a small way, letting them know that they are loved.
We are aiming for children who are confident in themselves rather than ones who look down on others. So try to avoid making comparisons – e.g. “This picture is great; much better than Jonathan’s.” Also, encourage your child to affirm and build up others by following your example – this will give them a heart that looks for the good in others.
37 ways to give positive attention
So I’ve already mentioned a few examples of everyday ways to give positive attention to our kids but now I’m going to give you a nice long list of ideas to try.
- Squeeze hands (we do 3 squeezes as a secret code for “I love you”)
- Send them a song
- Tell them how much you enjoy their company
- Thumbs up
- Take a photo of something they’re proud of
- Surprise them with their favourite snack at school pick up
- Make a point of planning in time together
- Let them overhear you telling someone else about their good behaviour
- Listen attentively when they talk
- Tell them you’ve noticed their good behaviour
- High five
- Let them choose a meal
- Send them a postcard
- Hand on their head / back / arm as you walk past
- Put fresh flowers in their bedroom
- Text them a compliment / joke / gif so they know you’re thinking of them
- Go to parent assembly even if they haven’t got a certificate that week
- Stick their certificate / picture on the wall
- Ask if you can join in / watch what they’re doing
- Sit next to them
- Make their favourite meal
- Put your phone away
- Write a funny poem about them
- Send an interesting YouTube clip on something you’ve been chatting about recently
- Play a boardgame
- Read a book together
- Give your undivided attention
- Stay and watch their sports training / music rehearsal
So those are just a few ideas to get you started. But the two recurring themes through the list are:
- Make yourself available
- Explicitly comment on their good behaviour
Our kids need to know that our attention is readily available whenever they need it. And the way that we do that is to offer it freely and not be afraid to tell them how proud / impressed / grateful we are when they choose to do the right thing. In my opinion, it’s not enough to just assume that they know.
I’m sure there are tonnes of other ways to give positive attention to our kids. Let me know what you do in your house to let them know that you’re thinking of them and to affirm that they are loved all day, every day.
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