Rory Anderson, Foster Division vice president, Lift Consulting Group

New shoes. A new outfit. Haircuts. School supplies. The back-to-school checklist seems to get larger every year. But what about morphing that tangible checklist into one with a possibly deeper impact that will get your kids off to a more desirable start this school year? After all, you are your child’s best teacher.

Positive parenting is a proven and powerful way to create a home environment that breeds confidence instead of contention, achievement instead of angst, and peace instead of perpetual arguing. That’s right, positive parenting can achieve all of that.

Just changing this one aspect of your parenting can have lifelong effects for you and your children. Admittedly, reinforcing positive behavior in our kids is one of the most difficult obstacles we face in raising them. That’s because we are wired to pay attention to problems, imperfections, and perceived negative circumstances. When we see our children not measuring up, our natural instinct is to correct the problem, but often that well-intentioned correction results in a power struggle, hard feelings, or a “my-way-or-the-highway” mentality.

Try the following to achieve positive parenting:

First, call attention to the positive things your child does. This is a much more effective way to interact, and more importantly, teach. When you purposefully admire the desirable behavior your child exhibits and use specific and precise language, you send a message that he or she is doing a lot more correctly than you have probably been giving him or her credit for. Research shows the best way to see a behavior repeated is to call attention to it. Attending to the negative is like playing in the muck: You both get dirty. Conversely, attending to the positive creates a sense of mutual respect and love.

Next, when correction is needed, don’t do it in the heat of the moment; try choosing a quiet time to speak one-on-one with your child to explain why what was done was inappropriate or unsatisfactory.

Children have an innate desire to please their parents.

When your son or daughter comes home and remembers to get their homework done, but forgot to take out the garbage that morning, choose to reinforce the good behavior: “Check out Mr. Responsible here! Nice work getting your homework done!” Then choose a different time to address the problem, when you are both calm, and you can explain the need for them to do their part in the home.

When your tiny toddler comes up to show you their masterpiece made with the entire contents of your what-used-to-be-organized craft closet, give them a smile and a hug. Then later have a little talk about boundaries and expectations.

When your teenager is willing to talk about his or her terrible day, by golly, listen! Look for ways to compliment them on being willing to share with you, instead of jumping to tell them how to fix their problem or how they could have handled the situation better.

Parenting takes heaps of patience. But when we choose to diligently look for and consequently reinforce positive behavior of our kids, they feel good about themselves, and we create a peaceful, productive environment in the home.

So, yeah! Grab that new lunch box and box of crayons, but for the best year, concentrate on initiating at least eight positive interactions with your child for every one negative interaction you have.

Educate yourself this year, and put the power of positive parenting to the test. See if you come out with an A+ on your personal parent report card.