Healthy, strong family relationships are foundational to young people’s growth, learning, and well-being.
These relationships build strong social and emotional strengths that kids use throughout their lives.
But great family relationships don’t just happen..
Welcome to My Discovery Destination!
Discovery Family Adventures
where your family can find plenty of opportunities to
The Discovery Family Adventures provide ideas, activities, and experiences to help build strong family relationships.
Our goal is to strengthen family relationships to help kids be and become their best selves
and to support parents in raising happy, successful, resilient kids in an exciting,
but sometimes turbulent and dangerous world.
Choose from the Adventures listed below
(or design your own family adventure!)
What is Prosocial Behavior?
Prosocial behaviors are driven by concern for other people’s well-being. It is the ability for children to voluntarily act in a positive, accepting, helpful, and cooperative manner and has been associated with many factors of well-being.
As parents we need to help our kids understand the importance of prosocial behavior, not just for those they impact with their behavior, but for their own mental health and well-being. Humans are born to care for each other, and these acts are rewarded during childhood and adolescence by adults who model such behaviors.
Since recent research indicates that antisocial behavior is more contagious than helpful acts, and that social proximity enhances these effects, it is important for parents should engage in explicitly teaching and engaging in ways that promote socially desirable behaviors.
There are many ways that parents can provide the challenge and support to facilitate the development of these key interpersonal skills, including:
- Teach empathy! Empathy drives prosocial behaviors. Explicitly teach and model empathy.
- Create a climate for social interaction. Provide opportunities for children that require them to rely on each other to succeed. Ensure that every individual has something to contribute.
- Use positive reinforcements. For prosocial behaviors to take root, acknowledge the behavior and
complement the action.
- Peer contagion can be used to promote selfless acts. Because the negativity bias causes humans to be more attuned to antisocial acts, a sensitivity for prosocial behaviors should be developed.
- Celebrate with explicit praise.
- Simple acts are worth more than rewards and reinforce positive prosocial behavior.
- Establish a culture of kindness and gratitude- Make kindness normal.
- Make sure kids know that Prosocial behaviors are expected.
- Equip children with the language of compassion.
- “What is going on?”
- “I would love to hear what you are thinking”
- “How can we act more kindly?”
- Teach self-compassion. Help children learn how to challenge negative self-talk.
- Provide clear rules and expectations about behavior. Rules need to be based on the principles of development as they govern consequences of behavior. It is important to explain the reasons for social rules and to clarify “cause and effect” of children’s choices and actions.
- Say it like you mean it. The appropriate emotional level should accompany any expression of a rule or expectation. The nonverbal aspect of delivery is vital to the overall message for the effect says it matters. Children should sense our praise and approval of prosocial behavior in our tone and expression. Similarly we should be firm and direct when we are correcting or redirecting inappropriate behavior.
- Notice and label when the child engages in prosocial behavior. Short, simple phrases such as, “You were being helpful…” “You were kind to…” reinforce and send the message that actions matter. These reflections of behavior by authoritative adults help children internalize these attributes and the source of behavior. The same is true of antisocial behaviors, and when adults notice and label these behaviors, children are better able to understand and act in appropriate ways. Importantly, the process takes practice and consistency over time.
- Modeling. Walking your talk is a powerful teacher for children to learn through what they see from caring adults. Imitation is a powerful form of learning and more influential than preaching. The voluntary nature of prosocial behavior requires a child to have consistent models and experiences to learn and internalize the importance and benefits of these actions. Your child watches you constantly and the relationship offers many opportunities to “show” children how to act and make choices.
- Responsive and empathic care. Children are much more likely to give what they have received in their most important relationships. Research has pointed to the connection between a secure parent-child attachment and prosocial behavior as well as empathy in early childhood.
- Respect for nature. Modeling and teaching care and respect for the environment and its inhabitants offers a powerful message. Picking up litter, tending a garden, being respectful to animals and their habitats are just a few of the many ways nature can teach the value of caring, gratitude, and connection.
- Read books about friendship and relationships. Early on, picture books can provide powerful narratives of the importance and benefits of prosocial behavior.
- Tasks and chores. Defining and assigning concrete tasks that make up the business-as-usual parts of the day creates a sense of connection. Age-appropriate tasks and chores are a great way for children to be and feel helpful.
- Avoid programs and content endorsing violent or anti-social behavior. Regardless of the format, content that is age-appropriate and created within standard rating guidelines offer choices that are more developmentally suitable for young children. With screens ever-present in the environment,
consider choosing programs with prosocial themes of friendship, exploration, problem-solving, and cooperation.
The right words of praise can be so encouraging, but bland, empty praise is meaningless.
Here are some tips to help parents learn how to give praise most effectively:
- Make it about them. What we ultimately want is for our children to develop their own power of self-evaluation, rather than become “praise junkies”, dependent on us to tell them if they are doing well. Instead of “I’m so proud of you”, you can help them realize their own achievements by asking them instead “You have worked hard and did really well on this test, you must feel proud of yourself” and once they answer “Yes I am”, you can always add: “I am proud of you too”!
- Be honest. Even young kids can see right through false praise. It is important to be honest when giving praise. If you’re not impressed by your child’s achievement, you don’t have to label their action as good or bad and can just mention something like: “I see that you’re practicing your ….” or "I can see that this is important to you." This lets your child know that you are aware of them and that they have your attention.
- Praise the effort rather than the result: When we focus on our children’s effort, rather than their achievement. we encourage them to learn the art of motivation and self-evaluation: “Yes I worked really hard to get to this result so it’s worth making the effort in the future”.
- Be specific. Vague praise doesn’t make much of an impression. Include specific details about what you are praising. For example, if you are praising a picture you can say, "I love the colors you used" or "It really captures the spirit of ____"
- Praise descriptively rather than using “evaluative” praise – Instead of saying “Wow, this is so beautiful” praise your child with a question eg. “How did you do this part?” or describe what you see, eg. “Wow the chicken in your drawing looks so lifelike!”. Your child will appreciate that you have taken an interest in his or her work and how it was executed and is more likely to realize his or her achievements and start talking about their work.
- Praise specific actions rather than their overall behavior – This allows your child to realize that a behavior is something that they choose rather than something they are. For eg. instead of saying “You’ve behaved really well while Nana was here,” you could say “I really appreciated that you helped Nana with her computer while she was here.”
- Accentuate the positive, reduce the negative – Make sure that your positives outweigh the negatives so that you fill your child’s “I’m capable” account instead of filling the “I’m not capable” account. For example, rather than saying ‘No, that’s not the way to do this’, suggest for eg. ‘I see that you’ve done it this way. I would’ve done it differently. Can I show you another way?’
- Try not to criticize – Even “constructive criticism” can be interpreted by your child as being negative. Try to always identify the good things in something that you child has done and ask the child to explain the reason for his success (usually the effort that they’ve put into it). This helps fill the “I’m capable account”. If you feel that there is room for improvement, you can then add: “what would you do differently next time” or "is there anything else you think would make it even better?"
- You don’t always need to say something – Sometimes giving them a smile or a hug can be more powerful that using words.
- Look for something less obvious to praise – a more obscure accomplishment or quality that a person hasn’t heard praised many times before will carry a stronger message than the 'easy' stuff that they hear all the time. For example, "I am so impressed with your ability to show kindness even in difficult situations," or "It's amazing to me how natural you are at making other people feel important."
- Praise people behind their backs or let your child eavesdrop. The praised person usually hears about the praise, and behind-the-back praise seems more sincere than face-to-face praise. You can also make sure your child overhears you praising something that he or she did to someone else.
- Avoid offering praise and asking for a favor in the same conversation. It devalues the praise and makes it seem more like a set-up than sincere praise.
- Feel free to praise people who get a lot of praise already. I’ve noticed that even people who get constant praise – or perhaps especially people who get constant praise – crave praise. Is this because praiseworthy people are often insecure? Or does getting praise lead to a need for more praise? I’m not sure, but it seems often to be the case.
- Beware when a person asks for your honest opinion. This is often a clue that they're seeking reassurance, not candor.
BONUS! Praise is gratifying to the person getting praised, of course, but it also tends to boost the happiness of the praiser because the way we feel is very much influenced by the way we act. By acting in a way that shows appreciation, discernment, and thoughtfulness, we make ourselves feel more appreciative, discerning, and thoughtful. And that boosts happiness.
Credits and Resources:
- The PREPARE Curriculum (Goldstein)
- Parenting with Love and Logic (Faye and Cline)
- Skillstreaming (McGinnis and Goldstein)
- 7 Habits of Highly Successful Families (Covey)
- The Forgotten HALF Revisited (S. Halperin)
by Prosocial Behaviors
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