5 things to remember when using Observe and Describe
Using the skill of Observe and Describe helps our children understand the specific behaviors that we like or dislike. The manner in which we use the steps to Observe and Describe is also important in conveying clear messages. Here are 5 things to remember when using Observe and Describe that will make this parent skill even more effective in changing your child’s behavior.
1. Make eye contact before using the skill
Recent studies have shown that mutual eye contact fosters a sense of trust, and is the key to developing social interactions. Before describing the behavior you have observed, make sure you are looking at your child and your child is looking at you. Eye contact helps your child focus on what you are saying and allows you to see their reactions to what you say. When you wait until eye contact has been made, you know you have their full attention and they, likewise, can see that you are giving your full attention to them. It’s the first step to a positive interaction with your child.
2. Position yourself at eye level
Standing directly over your child while talking to them can be intimidating to a child. You want the interaction to be positive and to center around teaching. Either bend down to the child’s level or take them to a place where you can sit. Also, pay attention to the direction your body is facing. When describing a negative behavior sit next to them and talk as if the problem is in front of you. This helps solidify that you are upset and displeased with their behavior, not with them. However, when describing a positive behavior face them to encourage internalization of the feedback you have given.
3. Eliminate distractions
Try to find a quiet area where you can talk to your child. Like eye contact, it’s more likely that he or she will hear what you say and follow through on any requests when there are no distractions. Taking a child aside also prevents the possibility of others overhearing their negative behaviors, which could cause embarrassment.
4. Use appropriate voice tone, body language, and facial expressions
Have you ever had somebody misinterpret an email or text message you’ve sent because there are no nonverbal cues to go with the words? Most of the meaning of a sentence is understood through nonverbal communication. Even though a child may not understand every word you say, the emotion behind what you say is easily comprehended. We all remember “the look” our parents would give us when we did something wrong. No words were required to understand that we needed to stop what we were doing. When using Observe and Describe, be aware of your facial expressions and body language. For example, you might smile when you are happy about something your child has done, or frown when you are displeased. Also use a voice tone that fits the situation; firm when giving correction and friendly when giving compliments. The skill is used to give our children clear messages, and those nonverbal cues should complement the behaviors we are describing to them.
5. Avoid labeling
Labeling is using vague terms such as, “You are a spoiled brat”, “You were an angel at the store”, or “Stop acting like wild animals.” You don’t want to negate what they are learning by using a label that doesn’t have a clear meaning, or that might possibly hurt the child’s feelings. Follow the steps as closely as possible, not only because the steps have been proven to change behavior, but because thinking about the steps and their sequence also helps you stay calm during stressful situations. Every skill we use should come back to teaching our children how to behave and more importantly, recognizing when they behave well on their own.