The Power of Positive Relationships – By Karen Boyes (Spectrum Education)
Creating positive relationships between parents and children is paramount. Ken Blanchard, in his book Whale Done!, describes how positive relationships, rewards and responses all add up to exceptional behaviour with killer whales, children, spouses, work teams, individuals and leaders. The book is a parable with easy to master techniques to develop positive relationships, based on how trainers teach killer whales to perform in shows at Seaworld in Orlando, Florida. Trainers use two main responses to train whales, redirection and positive responses. Two responses typically used in a home environment, no response or a negative response, do not change behaviours according to these whale trainers. ” When a killer whale is at the top of the food chain, you can’t send him to timeout, ignore or use negative responses for unwanted behaviour, The first key, say trainers, is to build trust and accentuate the positive.
These same methods applied to people also gain amazing results.
There are four main responses to behaviour.
- No Response
- Negative response
- Positive response
No response is commonly used when children are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. If everything is running smoothly, there is a tendency to sit back, relax and enjoy the situation.
When poor behaviour occurs a negative response is often given such as reprimanding a child, giving detentions, timeout or withdrawing favourite activities. This actually reinforces the very behaviour you are attempting to diminish. The more attention you pay to a behaviour, the more it will be repeated. Negative attention is better than no attention. If you don’t want to encourage poor behaviour, don’t spend a lot of time on it.
Negative behaviour or performance cannot be ignored, instead redirect the focus from the negative behaviour back to a positive behaviour, the behaviour you desire. Then watch closely so you can positively reinforce the good behaviour or performance. This is a powerful response as it gets the person back on track and at the same time it maintains respect and trust not calling attention to the off course behaviour in a negative way.
The redirection response has five steps.
- Describe the error or problem as soon as possible, clearly and without blame.
- Show its negative impact
- If appropriate take the blame for not making the task clear
- Go over the task in detail and make sure it is clearly understood
- Express your continuing trust and confidence in the person
For example, “Michael, your bedroom tidiness has not been acceptable this week. It shows laziness and lack of care. Maybe I didn’t explain my expectations well enough. I expect the floor to be clear and your bed made each morning. Please go and tidy your room now. I know you will do a great job.
Example of redirection. Parent to child who has not been doing a good job of emptying the dishwasher… ” I’m changing your responsibility from emptying the dishwasher to setting the dinner table. I know you enjoy that and I need it done. (Later) I’m so happy with the way you have set the table. Keep up the great work.
Positive responses are the ideal – catch people doing things right! Continually reinforce the behaviour you do want and ensure you are honest and sincere.
Maybe it is human nature or conditioning that we tend to focus on the negative behaviour. Many parents have developed what Ken Blanchard calls a ‘Gotcha” culture. Catching people doing things wrong is easy. All you have to do is wait until they mess up and point it out to them, making yourself look smart. ‘Gotcha.’
Catching people doing things right takes patience and self-control. You may need to change what you are searching for. This will probably take more effort and has greater payoffs in generating the kind of behaviours you want in your home.
Positive responses such as ‘good girl’, ‘nice job’ or ‘good going’ are little pats on the back. An effective positive response is more than that. It includes four steps.
Praise people immediately
- Be specific about what they did right or almost right
- Share your feelings about what they did
- Encourage them to keep up the good work.
All good performance starts with clear goals. Ken Blanchard states “if your child doesn’t know what they are being asked to do, what you do as a parent doesn’t matter.” Even Alice In Wonderland discovered this. When she came to a fork in the road, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat which fork to take. The Cheshire Cat enquired, “That depends on where you are going.” Alice replied, ” I don’t know.” “Then it doesn’t matter which road you take,” answered the Cheshire Cat.
Provide your children clear directions of why they are doing what you ask. Give them a vision for the future and praise progress – it’s a moving target. Praise every little step towards the goal. A simple example is when testing their spelling, tick all the letters your child gets correct, rather than marking the entire word wrong. When helping with homework problems, praise every step that is correct even when the final answer is incorrect.
Redirect and positively praise children as often as possible. Accentuate the positive and catch people doing things right!
Whale Done! Ken Blanchard 2002