Positive Parenting: “Catch Them Being Good”

Posted March 11, 2016 by

Positive Parenting: “Catch Them Being Good”

We have something for you to try this week. It’s something Dr. Robert Myers calls, “catch them being good.”

If you see behavior you like from someone in your house, pull them aside and tell them what you saw. Any behavior, any moment. From your kids, partner, or other relatives and friends. Keep a tally and see how many times you can catch someone being good.

James Lehman also encouraged teachers to use this tool in their classrooms and it made a big difference in kids’ behavior.

Rather than always talking to students one-on-one about what they needed to improve, teachers would pull students aside to tell them what they had done well. Students started to listen, rather than tuning out the lectures they were used to receiving.

Related: Get personalized parenting help from an Empowering Parents Coach. Click here to get started.

As a parent, positive feedback is one of your most powerful tools. You probably use this kind of encouragement already, but this technique is a way for you to zero in on the positive for a short period of time.

Positive feedback is an incredibly effective way to nourish behaviors you want to encourage. Plus it feels good to give and receive.

We aren’t suggesting you overlook bad behavior, and we know it’s not always easy to find positives when things are tough. That’s why we like to approach new ideas in small doses. Rather than putting a big “to-do” on your list, it’s nice to set up a short experiment for your family.

Try recognizing small moments with positive feedback for three days, or even one day. See what happens. No matter how difficult your child’s behavior, we challenge you to find something positive.

Often, you’ll get more good behavior, or positive messages, in return. With that kind of encouragement, you may find new patterns emerging in your household.

If you “catch them being good,” let us know how it goes in the comments section below. We’re interested in hearing your experiences!


More on Positive Parenting:

5 Rules to Help You Deal with Negative Child Behavior More Positively

Parenting Resolutions: Your 4-Step Plan to Calm, Positive Parenting



Marissa is a proud mom to two boys, age 10 and 5. She earned her degree in Sociology from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and has been a 1-on-1 Coach since 2011. Prior to coming to Empowering Parents, Marissa gained experience working as the House Manager of a group home for teenage boys, as a Children’s Mental Health Case Manager, and also spent several years working on the Children’s Unit at a Psych. Hospital.

Popular on Empowering Parents

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. shelley Report

    I just want to say that I believe in “Catching my child doing good” until it comes to my youngest daughter who is 11. It does NOT seem to influence her actions WHATSOEVER. I just do not quite understand her at all. It does not make her do more good to get more positive feedback. She is a do-as-little-as-she-can-to-get-by child.

  2. Lauran Report

    My daughter’s School in England gives out leaves for good behaviour. Once child has earned 100 leaves, they get a certificate in assembly and a small toy from a “Goodie basket.”

  3. Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

    Thank you for your interest in our Empowering Parents
    website. We’re glad you are finding the information helpful. We appreciate your inquiry into the process of becoming an
    Empowering Parents coach.  All of our coaches have either a Bachelor’s or
    a Master’s degree in the social science fields such as psychology, counseling,
    social work, or a related field and extensive work experience working with
    children and families in a variety of settings.  All of our coaches are
    trained in all of our parenting programs and they have years of experience
    coaching families by phone or by email.  Our coaching team is currently
    based in our Westbrook, Maine office.  Having the team in house allows us
    to do training and to work together on a variety of projects.  Empowering
    Parents Coaches are required to demonstrate exceptional written and verbal
    skills as well as a thorough understanding of child development and parenting
    concerns.  They work with families online and by phone as well.  Our
    coaching team is currently full and we are not looking for any applicants at
    this time, but we will post any job openings on our Empowering Parents
    site.  I hope this answers your questions and we appreciate your inquiry.

  4. KateKaufmanJohnson Report

    I started a “caught you doing the right thing” sticker chart a couple of months ago, and have it hanging on the fridge.   I kept it general for a while, but now I think I will narrow it down to respectful behavior, and kind responses , as those are problem areas for both of my children.  It fosters a little friendly competition and is more positive than negative feedback.  I also passed the info on to my younger child’s teachers as she is my primary challenge, with ODD and ADHD, and I wanted us all to be on the same page.

  5. Froggy Laurie Report

    I use “caught you coupons” with my 2. I have multiple “coupons” such as: great job sharing, great manners, you were a great sport today, you worked it out together, you put your clothes away without being asked, great big sister… Etc. They may NOT earn these (as in, “mom, I put my clothes away, can I get a coupon”), I must CATCH them. Once they get 10 coupons they may then turn them in for a reward buck (ice cream date, pick a movie, game night, mommy/day will do a core for you, etc.) They love looking into their envelopes to see if we have caught them & counting them up. We have seen an increase in arranged of their manners, choices, and behavior since starting.

    • Dana Report

      @Froggy Laurie  I would like to know how you set this up before hand? Did you sit down with your kids and tell them ahead of time what was going on? I have a 10yr old who I adopted at 2 days old but he has his mom’s Irish temper and gets very mad at alot of things. I try to compliment him when he puts his dishes in the sink without me asking  him, or clean the table without me asking him but it’s usualy because he wants something. and he never says thank you. I think this might work with our son (we only have one child), but I just wondered how you set it up before hand. Thanks! Dana

      • AD Report

        dmsmith98 Regarding the manners/clearing the plates, I had that problem.  Try asking if they want something they love (a bowl of ice cream) “How do you ask?”  “the correct answer is “Yes please” or when they ask you for something, you remind them, you need to say “May I please…..”.  And before I fully let go of the (bowl) I remind them, “What do you say?  Thank you mom”).  I also make a point of practicing my own good manners – John can you PLEASE hang up your coat, and then you may have your snack?  Thank you very much.  Make it a habit yourself.  Really work at it for a month, put reminders on your phone, your calendars etc.  Stage 2 maybe your child earns points for saying it without being prompted.  And whenever he does something good, say, “I liked the way you said thankyou/picked up your toys etc. .

  6. jolie Report

    I say positive things like, ” I like how you worked hard to complete your studies.”  “Or you remembered to take the dog out without me asking you.  Great job.  Thank you.”   or  ” it was kind of you to offer to help out.”   ….only to have my daughter say  in response, ” stop.  I know what you are doing.”  or ” big deal” or ” I didn’t do it for anyone but my self”  or “don’t think I care.”  or “” I don’t want your ‘positive’ comments”  Her responses just shuts me down and I feel very frustrated and sad that she rejects my attempts to giv eher positive feedback.  She has even said, “I don’t care what you think.  You have no influence over me so you might as well not say anything to me.  I don’t need you.”  or “You say these things, and I don’t care.  When wil you ever learn that I don’t care what you think, so stop talking to me. It has not and does not make a difference to me.”  It’s very dispiriting and alienating.

    • ElizabethGarcia1 Report

      @jolie  she might not show you but inside she knows you care and she might really be happy with herself  when she  hears positive comments from you…sometimes what  people  say is not what they mean .. some children say mean words because it gives them power or they might have too much pride to say sorry or accept positive feed back.. don’t lose hope

    • KateKaufmanJohnson Report

      @jolie I can so relate to your plight!  My 10 year old daughter shuts me down with her first words in the morning when I gently and joyfully go in to wake her up each day.  “Stop!”  “No!” are usually the first words I hear every day.  I have learned to quietly just turn away and go on with my morning.  She usually back-pedals a little and says “Sorry” later on ….everything is on her terms.   I have tried to express during a good moment when we can talk, that Mama is human and has feelings too, just like she does.  Otherwise, i ignore and make a bigger deal about the good stuff.

    • HeidiPhinneyDorman Report

      @jolie I’m just a “parent”, too. I would still try to continue with the positive comments, no matter what she says. I think she is trying to get a rise out of you and get you to respond with something negative.

    • Kristina Report

      I want to let you know that this was how I acted towards MY parents when I was a teen. The more they complimented me, the more I would be rude. It’s a defense mechanism when you are full of emotions. Keep it up. I promise you she DOES care and it will be worth it in the end. I’m so glad my mother never stopped trying, although I don’t know how she put up with me! I am 36 now and my mom is my best friend and has been since I turned 20.

    • Rafa1702 Report

      @jolie  I’m just a “parent”, so I´d be very reluctant to offer any advice (I’ll leave it to the pros). However, I just wanted to simpathize wityh your situation and show you my “virtual” support. Hang in there with the positive feedback. Maybe, at times, a simple “thank you” is enough. My daugther, though doesn’t reply the same way as yours, is also prone to “see thru this” as well, so I have to tone it down: “I noticed you did so and so. Thanks”
      Wish you the best.

  7. Kirsten Report

    So, I have a question for you.  I have a kid (adopted at age 12) with reactive attachment disorder.  I try to catch him at being good every time he does something good, but that’s close to never.  I have tried this technique over and over again, and it does not yield better behavior in his case.  As you note above, it will “often” generate better behavior.  What do you do when it does not?

    • Empowering Parents Coach Marissa Stephens, 1-on-1 Coach Report


      ask a good question here, and I can certainly understand how this might be
      frustrating. While you may not be seeing changes in your son’s behavior
      choices, I would encourage you to continue to look for those moments, no matter
      how small, where he makes a good choice or even a choice that was slightly
      better than the time before. Not all behavior changes are going to be swift and
      noticeable, but I think it is important to acknowledge even the tiniest of baby
      steps, especially for kids where it is difficult to find those “good” moments.
      While your son may not acknowledge the positive feedback you are giving, it doesn’t
      mean he isn’t hearing you. Because of your son’s RAD diagnosis, you may also
      work closely with your son’s treatment team to help determine the best way to approach
      giving positive feedback. Thanks for writing and good luck to you as you
      continue to work on this with your son.

    • Joshua Report

      I have limited experience with RAD but it is my understanding that persons with this issue often manifest the opposite response to positive and caring behaviors.
      In this case you might try starting with the “I noticed something” technique which is very brief. Here is an example. “Hey, I noticed that you really like such-and-such a band. I just wanted you to know that I noticed that.” That’s it. It can be how well they draw, write, sing, rap, dance, wear their hat whatever.
      This is a strong bridge step into full compliments when those are rejected for whatever reason. It has a sneaky way of building trust.

      • Kirsten Report

        @adadsopinion Yes – in the past, whenever I praised him for anything, he would immediately turn around and do the opposite, just to show me that I didn’t control him (this may be what Jolie is experiencing above also).  He has gotten somewhat better over time, but it’s been 5 years and we’re still dealing with many very problematic behaviors that generally have to do with his need to dominate and defeat me.  We’re now trying neurofeedback and are seeing inklings of positive improvement.  Anyone with a RAD kid out there know anything about using bodywork/therapeutic touch/massage with these kids?

  8. Positive Parenting: “Catch Them Being Good” | fairhealthtips.com Report

    […] post Positive Parenting: “Catch Them Being Good” appeared first on Empowering […]

  9. Positive Parenting: “Catch Them Being Good” | A Message From Our Sponsor Report

    […] post Positive Parenting: “Catch Them Being Good” appeared first on Empowering […]



Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families