Acknowledgment and Reinforcement


A short while back I had the opportunity to spend time with a pair of siblings who are 2 ½ years apart. The little boy was 18 months old and the older sister was 3 ½ years old. During our time together the little brother was in need of attention. He was fussing, crying and at one point on the verge of a tantrum. I witnessed the father soothe the young toddler by placing him on his lap. The little boy calmed down but did not tolerate the father’s attempt to take him off his lap. It was clear that the little boy was tired and since we were in a restaurant it was going to be awhile until the little boy was going to be home and put to bed.

During this period of time I observed the older sister’s attempt to sooth her little brother. She brought him something to eat and talked to him in a sweet voice. She tried to engage him in play and drawing of which he was not interested. She then let him be and focused on her own activity.

As we were leaving the restaurant I talked with the older sister and told her that I thought she was a wonderful big sister. She looked at me with curious eyes and asked why I said that. I explained that while her brother was upset she was so patient and caring. She tried to help make her brother happier by bringing him something to eat and trying to play with him. She showed that she cared and loved him. The little girl gave me a big smile and I could see how proud she was of herself.

As I reinforced her lovely behavior towards her brother I was thinking about one of the tips in my books, “I’m Going to be a Big Brother!” and “I’m Going to be a Big Sister!” which reads, “After getting through a difficult day or period of time, acknowledge the challenge and praise your child and yourself.” As I saw the look in this little girl’s face, it was reaffirmed that the acknowledgement was of great value.

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