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  • Sammy Howard

Finding the Positives, Praise, and the But Trap

You have made the decision to work on praising more, congrats! It can be so hard to put your energy towards saying the one “good” thing that happened when 10 bad things happen. One trap I see parents fall into when starting their praise journey or when they are REALLY burnt out and stuck with their kid is falling into the “But trap” as I like to call it. They start off with such great intentions and their heart is in the right place. They notice their kid did what was asked the first time they go to praise they say “Thank you for doing what I asked the first time” then all their frustration over the last few weeks and their long day piles in and the buts start flowing, “but I wish you would do it all the time”. Another example I hear often “I like the way you played so nicely with your sibling” and then the but trap strikes again “but I wish you would not make such a mess”.


How can we avoid the but trap? We’re only human after all! One great way to avoid the but trap is by planning your praises ahead of time and practicing them. This is especially important for the things we want to see more of that we hardly ever see. Does your child hardly ever come home and do homework? Is there hardly ever a time they do chores without being told? It can help to make a list of the things that bother you the most that your child does or does not do and THEN make a list of what the opposite would be. Examples:


Problem → Positive Opposite

Hitting Sibling → Playing Nicely

Talking back → Agreeing (sometimes unhappily)

Not doing chores at all → doing some chores


When you see the opposite what do you do? Have a script you have practiced ahead of time of what you will say! LIGHT UP when you do this. Give it all of your attention, but in a way that doesn’t feel fake. Say thank you, give them a hug or high five, give them a few extra minutes of screen time, or just tell them you noticed it. All humans want attention and if we can give it to the positives they will happen more. Think about this for yourself. If your boss gives you a high five every time you get to work early you’d feel great and try to be early more! Versus how you’d feel if your boss yelled at you every time you were on time or late. Now imagine if you got to work early, your boss gave you that high five then said “But I wish you were here on time every day”. EW mood killer! Don’t be that boss! Get back to enjoying time with your kids. Need more help? Contact me for a free 15 minute consultation.






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