Did you know? It’s true. What you focus on grows. Suppose there are 100 parts to our children (and us, for that matter). These parts are either good or bad and proportional. So, if 9 year old Janey has 63 parts good, she has 37 parts bad. The parts always add up to 100. You know what? What you pay attention to grows. If you pay attention to the 63 good parts, over time they become 68, 72, 75 parts. If you pay attention to the 37 bad parts, over time they become 40, 46, 52, and the good parts go proportionally down because, remember, the total always equals 100. Every harsh comment increases the bad parts and lowers the good parts. Every praise and blessing increases the good parts and lowers the bad parts. So, what do you focus on?
“Janey, what is wrong with you? You know better than that!” Wow, can’t you just feel those bad parts creeping up? Sure, Janey will look downcast and feel shamed into stopping her behavior. But, she has learned that she can get your attention by doing bad stuff.
“Hey, Janey, let’s stop just a minute. Are you sure what you are doing is helpful to both you and your brother?” Janey may think, “wait, what?” and be confused at first, but your effort is to join her in figuring out better behavior. She has learned that she can go to you to help her fix things.
My family and I went to the zoo recently. As we are walking around, I pick up snippets of what I call yuppy parenting. “Thank you, son, for walking beside me and not running ahead.” “Wow. Look at you, being a good big sister and gently pushing you baby brother’s stroller.” “Let the younger ones get closer to the glass. Sharing is caring, you know.” These parents bring attention to the good parts and you can see their children beam in their praise.
We live in a world of negatives. We humans crave attention. Attention has an absolute quality to it, so that both negative attention and positive attention fill the bill. Unfortunately, negative attention us usually easier and quicker to get than is positive attention. When you find things about your children to rave about and to heap positive attention on them, you are creating teachable moments. You are giving them a firm foundation of positive self-worth and attention. They will flourish in this negative world. What you focus on grows, so focus on the positive.