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Since this podcast is called MOMlitics, I figured it was high time to share one of my favorite secret parenting weapons.
It’s called Caught Doing Good. It’s something my elementary school did way back when, and I loved it so much that I modified it to fit our family.
So what is it? It’s a way to get kids to want to do good things for other people.
If you boil it down, the purpose of parenting is to raise kids who will grow up and be able to make the best possible decisions for themselves and for others. So the more we can guide them to make good decisions now instead of just telling them what they should be doing, the better off they’ll ultimately be.
Here’s how it works.
You, and any other adults who are watching your kids and want in on the fun, get to become the watch dogs. Whenever your child does something kind for someone else, on their own accord - and that’s the key - you get to tell them they were “caught doing good”! And then (when you get around to it) you write a quick summary of their good deed on a chart. And after a certain number of times being caught doing good, the child gets a prize.
Our kids love it so much because for one, it gives them at least a small sense of control, which is something they don’t have a lot of. All too often, both at home and at school, kids are simply following orders and directions. Caught Doing Good is great because they get to take ownership of pretty much every aspect of the process.
On their charts, for example, they love choosing the color of the marker we use to write their good deed. They also choose the sticker that goes in each square, and now they even help make the charts themselves, by writing “Caught Doing Good” on top and tracing the grid lines with a ruler.
Other benefits? It can become a friendly source of competition between siblings. They love talking about who’s going to reach ten Caught Doing Goods the fastest!
But alas, not every good behavior can be classified as a Caught Doing Good; for example, chores they’re expected to do regularly, like putting away their toys or clearing their dinner plate. And it’s hard! Our kids will give me their best puppy dog eyes and say, ‘Mommy, I cleaned up my room! Is that a Caught Doing Good?’ So I’ll say something like, ‘You did such a great job! That wasn’t a Caught Doing Good because it was something you’re supposed to do anyway, but I’m still SO PROUD OF YOU for cleaning your room without me having to ask!’
Basically, I try to give them lots of praise and positive reinforcement regardless.
And speaking of positive reinforcement, we frame each Caught Doing Good chart once it’s full, and now we have several of these hanging on their playroom walls. Not only will these frames be a great keepsake when they’re older, but for now, it’s such a sweet source of well-deserved pride for them. The kids love when I read their recent Caught Doing Goods aloud; it’s so rewarding to see how legitimately happy they get when they begin to grasp the positive impact they’ve had on other people - and all the good they’re capable of.
While studying developmental psychology during my undergrad, I realized that kids, just like adults, are constantly working to figure out where they fit within the grand scheme of things as well as within their more immediate environment; in essence, who they are in relation to everyone else. This constant yearning to understand themselves makes the formulation of their self-concept very important.
If children think of themselves as good people, then logically, they’ll do more good things. If they think of themselves as naughty, they’re probably going to look for more ways to do bad things, because if they do get in trouble (and inevitably they will), that would mean they’re staying true to who they think they are - and unfortunately, that often means getting attention for those negative behaviors, as well.
Parenting, as I’m sure most can attest to, is not only challenging, but also a lot of pressure! Caught Doing Good has truly been such a rewarding way to not only bring out the best in our kids, but to see what they can achieve when left to their own devices.