Parenting Tips That Also Work On Partners

5 pieces of parenting advice that you can also use to influence your partner’s behaviour and enhance couple relationship closeness.

1. “Catch Them Being Good” aka give attention to behaviours you want to increase.

Attention is one of the most powerful reinforcers/rewards i.e. people generally like attention.

Whenever your partner does a behaviour you want them to do more often, don’t overlook the opportunity to give them positive attention.

Giving positive attention to wanted behaviours is usually more effective for changing behaviour than giving negative attention when someone isn’t doing what you want them to do.

2. When You’re Trying to Get your Partner to Increase a Behaviour, Use Varied Rewards and Choose Rewards that are Strong Motivators For the Specific Individual

Even acknowledging that you noticed your partner’s action can be enough to lead them to do that action more often. But, to maximize effectiveness, vary the types of rewards you give your partner for wanted behaviour.


– verbal rewards
– physical rewards (even a loving, 5 second rub of their shoulder can work),
– doing a behaviour they would like you to do more often

Pay attention to what types of rewards are the most motivating for your partner and use these types of rewards when the change in behaviour you’re trying make happen is especially important to you.

If you’re going to reward your partner’s behaviour by reciprocating with a behaviour they want, you don’t need to announce that’s what you’re doing it. Try to avoid keeping score of who has done what, or who has noticed each other’s “good behaviour” the most. Relationships where people only do things their partner wants them to do if its quid pro quo tend to be unhappy.

3. Shaping

During the initial stages of toilet training a child, parents will often praise the child for telling them they need to use the toilet after they’ve already pooped in their pants.

This isn’t the behaviour that’s desired in the end but it’s a step in the right direction.

When you want your partner to start a behaviour they don’t normally do, start out rewarding any behaviour that’s closer to what you want than where they started out.

DON’T say anything there is even a remote chance they could interpret as critical.

Once your partner is good at the first step of what you want, then you can start to shape the new behaviour closer to what you want. First shape the habit, then shape the behaviour closer to your ideal.

4. Give One Instruction At A Time.

If you need to explain something that has multiple steps in it, it usually works best to explain one step at a time.

Rather than making multiple requests, ask for one thing at a time.

5. Enjoyable Micro-routines Create a Sense of Warmth and Stability

Parents have lots of micro-routines with their children (e.g. kisses before school, bedtime stories) that give the children

(a) a sense of being loved
(b) a sense that their parents are reliable, and
(c) provide something to look forward to.

Couples can benefit from these as well. Aim for something both people will look forward to.

Often it’s not clear initially how much you’ll enjoy the routine or how important the routine will become to you, so it’s easy to underestimate the benefits of micro-routines.

Two ideas:

1. a daily front to front hug, for closer to a minute than a second.
2. lunch with your partner once during the work week. (People who follow me on Twitter will have heard me mention that I do this).