Friday, April 26, 2013

Toddler Tactic #5 - Side Door Messages

Most adults love gossip and if we weren't supposed to hear a particular bit of news, it makes it all the juicier! Children are no different and I like to exploit the human tendency to eavesdrop to my advantage.

I mostly use this tactic to reinforce my approval and appreciation of certain behaviors in the hopes that they will be repeated. For example, I'll tell Brian in the course of a "private" conversation about something positive one of the kids did that day.  Such "side door messages" can carry more weight and meaning than overt praise. Or, if I'm feeling silly, I'll whisper a secret to one of their stuffed animals and pretend that they're not supposed to hear it.  "Hey Ted, you should have seen how Riker shared his books with a little girl at the dentist's office this morning. He's so kind and thoughtful!"

There are times when it's a struggle to get past a series of aggravating or difficult behaviors and on these occasions I try to remind myself to use this tactic to focus on the child's innately good qualities in the hopes that overhearing them will remind him to live up to them.

Conversely, it's important to be conscious of the negative messages we might send about our children as we discuss the day with our partners. These negative messages are just as likely, if not more likely, to be overheard and assimilated than our attempts at positive side door messages!

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