April 1, 2011

There are two ways to make an impression on a kid about her actions and performance. One—point out everything she is doing wrong. Two—catch her doing things right.

Which one do you want a kid to remember, to have imprinted on her young, indelible mind? What she is doing wrong, or what she is doing right?

I’ll give you a minute to think about your answer.

While you are thinking, remember some advice that George H.W. Bush received when he was president: “You can’t veto your way to greatness.”

Okay, time’s up.

Kids remember—and act upon—those things that make the biggest imprint in their minds. If you’d rather your nieces and nephews remember and focus on things that they are doing right and well, catch them in the act and comment on it.

At soccer practice, when you see your niece hustle into position as the ball changes possession, tell her so. “You really have a feel for the field. I really like the way you got into position at that last turn.”

Okay, I know what you are thinking: “But what do I say when she is doing something wrong?”

Simple. Tell her what is the right thing to do, then compliment her as soon as she does it.

Back to soccer.

Your niece is statute miles out of position, and the opponent is roaring the ball down the field. You could call out, “Position, Ellie, position! Get back and help the goalie.” When Ellie finds her spot on the field, you could say, “That’s what we are looking for. Great position! More of that!”

If Ellie is doing something dangerous, go ahead and intervene. Then explain the right thing to do in that situation, and move along. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. “Oh, we just don’t do that around here.” That kind of thing.

Watch your siblings’ kids to see what they are doing well and right. Catch them in the act. And compliment them.

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