Using Observe and Describe allows you to address behaviors in a better way. Observing children’s behaviors, you are not judging your child or their poor behavior. The lack of judgment makes it harder for your child to argue against what you’ve observed. When your child doesn’t feel like they are being attacked, they are more likely to follow your instructions and change their behavior. Observe and Describe helps you clarify to improve behavior by giving you the words to describe children’s behavior.
Observe and Describe is useful in pointing out your child’s positive behavior and why you are proud of them. When your child knows why you are proud of them, they will be more likely to repeat the behavior you want.
Observe and Describe take practice before it becomes second nature to come up with the words to describe a child’s behavior. Before using it on your children, start by observing what you encounter and describing to yourself what you see. For example, if you’re at the grocery store and see a child pulling boxes off the shelf. You’d say to yourself, “Mary, you have pulled off the cereal boxes off the shelf and left them in the middle of the aisle.” Practicing it in your head allows you to become more comfortable with the steps before having actually to do it with your own kids. Many parents find it helpful to practice pausing the TV or movie and describing what just happened. It’s ok if it takes a while before you feel comfortable using the skill.
The three steps to Observe and Describe are:
Observe the behavior
Get your child’s attention
Describe what you see. Be descriptive and specific. Avoid vague words and phrases.
Children are concrete thinkers so have a hard time gasping vague phrases or words. Things like: “stop acting out,” “stop being bad,” or “don’t cause problems” doesn’t tell your child what you want. If your child isn’t able to grasp what is being asked of them then they won’t be able to change their behavior. Describing words for kids helps tell your child what you want.
Many parents wonder exactly what behavior is. Behavior is what your child does or say. It is anything a child does that can be seen, heard, or measured (how often or how long).
3 things to remember when using the skill of Observe and Describe
Putting yourself at eye level when getting a child’s attention. Being at eye level makes you less scary to your child. Also, sitting side by side instead of looking directly at them will help them understand that you are displeased with their behavior and actions and not with them.
Eliminate distractions. Talking to your child without distractions increased the chance of your child hearing and understanding what you are saying.
Be aware of facial expressions and body language. Smile when your child has done something you’re happy with or frown when you’re displeased. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word you’re saying, they’ll get the message through your body language.
For more information about Observe and Describe, as well as games and activities ideas, visit Smarter Parenting.