I was outside with my dog, Joy, this morning when she got her lead wrapped around a tree. I was able to guide her into unwrapping herself by a series of hand and vocal directions. When she finished unwinding herself, I highly praised her. I remembered the dog trainer who led me into training my dog, Atlas, The first thing that trainer taught his class of twenty-some students (and their dogs) was to praise your dog! Actually, the first thing he taught us was to get your dog to look at you. Then whenever your dog does one thing towards what you want him to do, PRAISE HIM!

This works with children as well. It works very well. When your child is doing the wrong thing, first you need to get his/her attention. If you’ve trained your child well, s/he will look at you when you call his/her name. You can begin to make silent gestures as well. If your child is doing something wrong or inappropriate, you shake your head while saying, “Don’t do that.” It works best with a child if you give them something different to do . . . tell them what they should be doing instead.

You would think this was apparent, but it’s not – the part of telling a child what to do instead. Too often we will scold a child when s/he is doing wrong, but fail to tell him or her what s/he should be doing. That’s actually the most important part. If you fail to tell him or her what they should be doing, they will gravitate back to the inappropriate behavior because to them, that felt “right”.

I substitute taught in a classroom and a little boy kept “misbehaving”. No matter what we were doing, he did something entirely different. Finally I went over to him . . . his desk was already up against the teacher’s desk, which was a clear indication that he had some behavior problems, and I got on his eye level so we could look in each other’s eyes without my looming above him, and I asked, “What SHOULD you be doing?” His simple answer explained it all. He said, “I don’t know.” So I patiently explained the directions again to him and stayed with him until he started doing the activity the correct way. I suggested that when he was confused about what to do, for him to look at his classmates and try to do what they were doing. This was going to be difficult because he sat with his back to most of his classmates, but he could turn his head and try to watch.

And I praised him! I told him what a good job he was doing and how proud I was of him! He continued to do well, with redirecting comments from me, the rest of the day.

Instruction in what to do is necessary, for if we only tell them what not to do, they learn nothing; if we tell them what to do instead of what they are doing, they learn everything.

And praise. Do not be afraid to tell your child when he is doing the right thing. Even if he hasn’t done something wrong, when you see him/her doing what you want, tell him/her that is correct. Those words can be short and sweet. Here are examples:

Good Job!

Well done!

Nice work!

Look at YOU!

Way to Go!


You can come up with your own words of praise, but find a few comments that are easy to say and use them to train, or discipline, your child.

Discipline is teaching what to do; it’s not all about punishment.

For my interested friends, here is a Bible verse to remember: Proverbs 22:6 KJV Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.