Have you ever heard the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey”?
The idea is that keeping an upbeat attitude (and just being nice) can be a lot more convincing when trying to bring people around to your way of thinking than coming in eager for a fight.
I’m a firm believer in taking a positive approach to potentially challenging situations. I just visualize that sweet, sweet honey. That is, of course, when I’m engaging with fellow grown-ups.
Somehow, that level-headed mindset isn’t always accessible when I’m dealing with children just hitting their meltdown momentum. It’s hard to think reasonably when faced with someone who is being unflinchingly unreasonable.
How many of us parents have had to convince a red-faced, foot-stomping child that they need to wear a coat on a snowy day? Or that they need to put sunscreen on when it’s a sunny day? How about that brushing their teeth isn’t optional, and, yes, that means every single day!
Well, I’m here with a possible fix for all these little behavioral speed bumps. What if I told you that gossiping could be just the thing to get kids stepping up instead of stomping off?
Seems crazy, I know, but Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician, says it might be an effective technique for getting through to our little ones.
Dr. Karp writes quite extensively about parenting. He’s penned “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and “The Happiest Toddler on the Block.”
According to the good doctor, gossiping about good behavior is one of his favorite ways to validate good behavior in little ones. Sounds crazy, right?
It’s like when researchers throw me softballs about how eating chocolate and taking naps are good for my health. I’m all about that kind of science. So in the vein of healthy life hacks that can produce positive outcomes with minimal effort, I thought it prudent to at least hear Dr. Karp’s pitch.
The idea is to say something positive about a child within earshot of them, but make it appear as if they are “overhearing” you praise them to a friend. Dr. Karp claims this kind of “gossiping” can be far more effective in reinforcing good habits than just telling them. The fact that kids think it was off-handed really convinces them that what they heard was to be believed.
Overhearing and believing aren’t solely kid concepts, either. As adults, how many times are we paid a compliment and take it as someone simply being polite or nice? But if we overhear someone saying those same kind words about you to someone else, it would fill anyone’s heart with happiness.
If a medical doctor tells me that slipping in a few gossipy compliments — “Mara did such great job studying for her spelling test” or “Declan was such a great helper cleaning up for the party” — in between gab sessions with my gal pals will get me conflict-free good grades and clean rooms, then that’s what I’ll do. This is exactly the kind of science I like to support.
That is, when I’m not catching a cat nap after helping myself to some leftover chocolate Easter candy.
Molly Cavanaugh of Channel 94.1 FM’s “Big Party Show” in Omaha is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for Momaha.com.