Catch Them Doing Good

My teenagers are ditching school on Friday. How do I know this? I’d like to claim it was clever detective work and extreme expertise in motherhood cyber-sleuthing but no, I know they are ditching because I’ve planned it. We are going to get up in the morning, get ourselves already for a regular day and then just not show up. The whole thing is going to be a fantastic waste of time, an orchestrated event of unruliness. We are going to the mall and out for lunch instead of going to school.

Ditching Day is a special treat, my way of saying thank you for giving your all to your academic responsibilities, thank you for getting to class when so many of your friends are heading downtown. It is my way of ‘catching then doing good’.
At the beginning of this parenting journey I read a fantastic parenting book “How to Behave so Your Children Will Too” by Sal Severe Ph.D. The pages were filled with valuable words of parenting wisdom, among them, the phrase ‘Catch them doing good’. The line stuck and I’ve never forgotten it. How simple. Focus and reward the behaviour you want to end or avoid the behaviours that you don’t want.

Those four simple words have saved my sanity over the years and quite likely saved my children too, from the scars of being nagged through childhood.

Once I read ‘Catch them doing good’ I changed my focus. Suddenly I was saying things like “thank you for hanging up your coat”, “nice manners” and “Great work getting that homework out of the way” The results; I was saying “pick up your coat.” , “where are your manners?” and “Get that homework done.” a great deal less. I’d like to say that it completely solved the homework issue but I’m convinced magic that powerful does not exist.
There is something else that ‘Catch them doing good’ has a great impact on… that sibling thing that seems to be so hard to cope with. You know the one where you swear one of your children is going to come into the kitchen holding the other’s eyeballs in their hands asking how to put them back in. You can’t make the battles go away, they actual have a developmental function and nature protects them from eradication but you can ease the frequency, severity and most importantly increase your tolerance by focusing on the behaviour that makes you happy.

‘Catch them doing good’ ….Try it for one week, be on the lookout, catch them and praise the heck out of every little gesture of kindness towards one another. See if you notice anything different.


I am always amazed in parenting that it is most often the very simplest words or actions, like Ditching Day, that produce the most dramatic results.


You can also find Michelle at her blog The Space Between Raindrops, sharing wisdom, gratitude and humour.

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