Debbie Gross, LCSW, Ltd. - Individual, Marital & Family Therapy

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One Therapist's Reflections

Noticing Positive Moments Influences Positive Behaviors

May 29, 2009

It's crazy how many penguins I have in my office. There have
to be over 300 of them. They are multiplying like rabbits! Many years ago, I went to a seminar led by a wonderful psychiatrist
 from California, Dr. Daniel Amen. He wrote a book about how penguins inspired him to notice the positives in people more
 than focusing on the negatives. I was so moved by his story
 that I began collecting penguins myself. It is a daily reminder
 for me to always look at what is working rather than what is broken; notice what you love about someone more than
 what you're bothered by; find something in your day to
 celebrate rather than holding on to something that went

So how do penguins and this notion of 'noticing the positives' influence parenting? Children are always seeking our 
attention. Anyone who tries to take a quiet trip to the 
bathroom with little ones around knows that those fingers 
under the door are a sign that they want you ALL the time. 
Or when children entertaining themselves quietly suddenly 
and desperately NEED you as soon as you pick up the phone. They will take ANY form of attention - negative or positive. 
If they know you tune in (and respond loudly) to the negative behaviors, children will be likely to display negative behaviors - 
in part to seek your attention. If children receive wonderful attention when they are making great choices, they will 
continue to seek your attention through making MORE 
great choices.

Consider a room filled with ten 4 year olds. If you ask the 
kids to clean up, chances are there will be at least 2 kids 
NOT cleaning, but more likely than not, there will be 7-8 kids cleaning up. If you channel your energy into getting the 
2 kids on task, the kids who are cleaning may lose interest 
or stop cleaning to gain your attention. However, when you comment, sincerely, on "how great Susie is doing getting 
all the blocks put back into the bin" or how fast the kids are working, those stray few will probably join in. Make sure, 
when they do, that they are noticed for their participation!

So, it's easy to see how to influence 4 year olds to make 
great choices, but what about those teenagers? Same 
methods apply! Teenagers are working hard on feeling 
good about themselves - and it is our important mission 
as parents to help them foster a healthy, strong self esteem. 
It is so easy to focus on the shoes left by the door, or the 
garbage spilling over in the bathroom. But noticing the 
hard work your child did on an assignment, or the 
compassion she showed a friend who was feeling down, 
or how responsible your son was for coming home before 
curfew go a long way in teaching teens about respect and positive behavior. We actually influence their healthy 
choices by taking the time to notice what some parents mistakenly take for granted. Find things EVERY DAY to 
celebrate your teen! Don't do it in a patronizing or false 
way; really take the time to get to know your teenager 
and encourage him in being the best he can be!

Make a point to start today - look around you: your friends, 
spouse or partner, co-workers, employees, and children. 
Watch for those "penguin" moments. Tell that person when 
she impacts you in a positive way. And share on this blog 
how it changes your life! 

9 Comments to Noticing Positive Moments Influences Positive Behaviors:

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Eric on Friday, April 20, 2018 10:08 AM
Nice work appreciated
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Debbie Gross on Friday, April 20, 2018 10:55 AM
Thanks Eric!

Eric on Friday on Monday, August 20, 2018 1:59 AM
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