What would you like your child to think when he or she makes a good choice? A. Nothing at all. B. "That was the most stupid thing I've ever done." C. "That was great. I'm glad I did it. I should do that again!"
I hope you picked C. If you picked A or B, then I cannot help you any further, and you should put this column down before you accidentally hurt yourself. However, if you chose C, I've got great news for you: You've got the power to make it happen.
Your words have an incredible impact on what your child thinks. How many children finally learned to ride a bike because their parents assured them they could do it if they didn't give up? Or how many perfectly normal girls have thought they were fat because their dad jokingly called them "chubby?"
The reason your words have so much power (for good or bad) is that in a child's world, parents are a trusted source of "truth." If you say it, it must be true. This is why it's so important you choose your words wisely. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us "pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
Positive words from a parent are something kids want to hear again and again. All you need to do is consistently link these words with a specific behavior that you want your children to learn, such as listening the first time.
Here's the trick. You need to be aware of about 90 percent of the times your child does the positive behavior. The reasoning is simple: You can't increase the behavior if you don't consistently reinforce it, and you can't reinforce it if you're not aware of it. And you won't be aware of it unless you're watching carefully for it.1