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Ron L. Deal, President, Smart Stepfamilies

The number one strategy for training children is to catch them doing something right! Everyone loves to be reinforced with a pat on the back for good behavior, especially kids. Your approval is incredibly important to your child. Unfortunately, we often get caught in a cycle of catching misbehavior, rather than looking for proper behavior. This is especially important for stepparents who also have the task of building report and respect with their stepchildren. So, consider setting your attention toward finding what’s right, not what’s wrong, and give them reason to like you while encouraging appropriate behavior at the same time.

  • Look for positives and draw attention to what you appreciate. “I sure like the way you used your manners when asking for a snack”. “I noticed this morning that you made your bed and got all ready for school without having to be reminded. I really appreciate that.”
  • Comment on effort (“You worked really hard on math this month, your grades show your effort and motivation”), not just performance and outcome (“You got an ‘A’ in math!”).
  • Praise steps forward. “I’ve noticed you trying to keep your room in order on your own. I like that.”
  • Notice solution-behavior. “How did you know to do that?” “I like this part; tell me about it.” “What else will you be doing when you’re managing your homework better?”

Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.