Fix the Bad but Praise the Good – Encouraging Positive Behavior

There are days when my children are like little angels.  They behave perfectly and follow the directions that I provide for them.  Those days, however, are not the norm.  In fact, they are few and far between, if I am being honest.  Most days I want to pull my hair out and scream at the top of my lungs to release the stress that radiates through my body as I hear the famous words, “It wasn’t me!”

Having been traveling down this journey for a while now, I can look back and see what techniques seemed to have worked a bit better than others and which have failed miserably.  One of the thought process that I am doing my best to implement now is Fix the Bad – Praise the Good.  I’ve seen some positive improvements since first attempting this method, so I thought that I’d take a moment to share it with you.




Let’s look at a few scenarios to set the stage.


Scenario #1

Jack and Jill are playing blocks in the living room while you are working on washing the dishes.  Jill comes in and asks if you want to play blocks with them.  You explain that while you would love to, you have to finish the dishes first.  The promise is made that once you are done doing the dishes, you’ll be right in to play.  Jill happily skips back to the living room and resumes her playing.

Jack gets bored playing blocks and realizes that you are distracted and not giving him attention at the moment.  Jack goes into the art table and gets out the new markers that Jill just got for her birthday.  He then proceeds to color all over the walls of the living room.  You finish the dishes to walk in and see Jill playing nicely, waiting for you to join in the fun, and Jack causing mischief.  Instantly you begin to give Jack your attention, yelling for him to stop and then continuing to explain all the ways in which what he is doing is wrong.  Jill goes up to her room to avoid the drama in the living room and resentment grows in her heart because Jack made it where Mom didn’t play blocks with her.


Scenario #2

You’re flipping the laundry.  Matilda comes over and asks if you want to play Barbies with her.  You decline the offer.  There is just too much that needs done right now.  A little while later you’re done folding the laundry and are carrying the clothes up to put them away.  You see Matilda playing Barbies nicely in her room.  You continue on to your room and put away your clothes.  After you get them all hung nicely in the closet, you walk past Matilda’s room again, only to find her with scissors cutting off Rapunzel Barbie’s beautiful hair.  You storm in, and dish out the punishment for misbehaving.  Matilda becomes upset and goes to hide under her bed because she thinks that the only time you talk to her is to yell at her.

 What was the proper way to respond in these situations?  I’m not a parenting expert by any means, and I won’t pretend to be.  I’m just another mother, struggling through these scenarios similar situations.  There is one thing that I do know for sure though, and that is that kids crave our attention and they will do whatever it takes to get it.  Whatever it takes.  The good, the bad and the ugly!

Whenever you see your child doing something good, such as playing Barbies in their rooms nicely, praise them!  Let them know that you see them behaving and that it is good.  Take the time to play with your children.  They will only be young once and that time is gone far too quickly.  Now, I’m not saying not to do your housework and spend your entire day playing, nor I am saying that kids won’t misbehave if you play with them.  I am suggesting though to ensure that there is at least a little bit of playing in every day.  Kids need to know that they have done well and that it will be rewarded.

When your child makes a bad decision, it needs to be corrected.  When I say to Praise the Good, I am by no means saying not to discipline your children.  In fact, I am saying that children need to be redirected and taught when they misbehave.  You must fix the bad.  Just don’t spend so much time dwelling on the bad that they get more of your attention from misbehaving than behaving.  You want them to know that you are not pleased with their choices, what they should have done and what the punishment for their decision will be.




Applying This Technique

Take for instance scenario #1 above.  You walk into the living room to find Jill playing nicely and Jack writing on the walls.  What do you do?  You correct Jack.  Remove the markers and send Jack to the corner to stand.  Then you go sit with Jill and play blocks.  Jill will get the reward of your attention for behaving well.  Jack will want to play as well, but he made a bad choice, so he doesn’t get to.  After playing with Jill for a while, return your attention to Jack to finish his correction.  Keep it short and simple.  You are fixing Jack’s bad, while praising the good in Jill.  Hopefully next time Jack will make better choices and will get the benefit of playing with you.

Will this work for every child or in every scenario?  I can tell you, the answer is a big fat NO.  However, if the misbehavior is attention based, and this type of attention correction is used on a consistent basis, Jack will learn that to get Mom’s attention better, for longer, he needs to behave.

Would Matilda have cut Rapunzel’s hair if Mom would have stopped when walking by the first time?  “Look at you playing Barbies so nicely!  I just love to see you behaving so well.  Can I play with you after I put this laundry away?” If Mom said that, would the hair have been butchered?  Who knows!  I do know that a happy child who knows that her parents are proud of her is much less likely to cause destruction of property.


Does it work?

Again, I can’t say that this will work for every child, or in every situation – but I am a firm believer that this is a huge step in parenting.  Don’t make your good child feel as though they must misbehave to get your attention.  Don’t pour out the discipline to the point where your child wants to misbehave just to get you to talk to them.  Ensure that you are praising your children for their good choices.  Make it more appealing for them to behave than to misbehave.

Have you guys applied this technique to your parenting methods (even if you didn’t know it was considered a technique)?  I would love to hear from you what has worked or hasn’t worked.

 Let’s use each other to bounce ideas as to how to properly fix and praise our children.


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