By Angelica Shiels Psy.D. (Post also appeared on Mamapedia)
Shhhh…. Don’t tell your husband, but the same tactics that you use with your kid will work with him! Here are some basic “do’s” and ” don’t ‘s” of husband-training:
1) DO positively reinforce his EFFORTS, not just his successes.
You know how you gave your kid hugs and high-fives the first time he attempted to use the potty, even though he completely missed and got pee all over the floor? Remember how after all that applause he was motivated to keep trying? Keep that scenario in mind the next time your husband makes dinner but burns it.
2) DO ignore bad behavior silently.
Ever try to reason with a toddler when he’s tantruming or tell a 2-year old that his problem is “not that big of a deal”? Well, expect nothing different from your man. If your husband is flipping out because he can’t find the remote or the flight is delayed or the DVR recorded the wrong show, just ignore it. Do not reason with him. Do not help. Do not make eye contact.
3) DO give him a sticker chart.
No, don’t go out and buy transformer stickers. What I mean is provide a semi-immediate, tangible reward for those times when your husband does ANYTHING YOU WANT HIM TO KEEP DOING IN THE FUTURE. Did he walk the dog without being asked? Consider giving him a kiss and a smile. Did he call you on his lunch-break just to ask you how your day was? Consider sending him a sweet text later in the day. Did he make dinner and bathe the kids? Show him his efforts did not go unnoticed that night. Interpret that last part as you wish.
4) DO meet him where he’s at.
Remember how you PATIENTLY taught your toddler to not shove fistfuls of food into his mouth because you knew that his fine motor skills weren’t developed enough to use a fork? Well, your husband’s male brain may not be equipped to multi-task or attend to details as well as your female brain (True scientific fact. Plus, there are things male brains can do better than female brains. Believe it or not.) Now, are you going to roll your eyes and make him feel like an idiot for it, or be as patient as you were with your little food-grabber?
5) DON’T get so busy that you don’t make time to make him feel special.
Remember how you gave your. 2-year-old special one-on-one time after his little brother was born? And remember how you intentionally established little bonding rituals like belly raspberries and before-bed tackle games? And remember how after your one-on-one time with your toddler, he was always more eager-to-please? Well, husbands respond to special bonding time too. And what the hell- he might even like a belly raspberry and before-bed tackle game too.
6) DON’T spank him.
As cathartic as it may seem to backhand your husband’s booty when he forgets your anniversary, it is simply not recommended. It will probably just make him angry and rebellious. Or he will like it. Either way, not effective.
7) DON’T let the dishes pile up or stop vacuuming just to “teach him a lesson” about how he needs to contribute.
Guess what? Much like your toddler, when faced with a disastrous house, your man will simply shrug his shoulders and plop himself down on top of the collection of clothes, garbage, and dishes piled up in the living room.
9) DON’T stop treating him with respect.
You know how you somehow refrain from using phrases like “Shut the $&@! up!” or “How stupid can you be?” with your toddler? Well, apply that kind of self-control when your husband makes a comment about PMS or tracks mud through the house.
10) DON’T confuse him by being vague or indirect.
If you want your toddler to eat more of his chicken, you tell him directly to take four more bites. You don’t assume that he should just “get it” or just hint around at the fact that “there sure is a lot of food on that plate, Johnny.” Give your husband the same courtesy of being direct and specific about what you need.
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