Positive reinforcement can be a revolutionary parenting technique. When our kids misbehave, we are often tempted to scold them, punish them, or yell at them. But are these techniques truly effective? They may stop our children from misbehaving, but they may also cause undue harm to our children’s mental and emotional state. Instead, positive reinforcement teaches our kids how to behave without hurting their feelings.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement focuses on the good instead of the bad. It encourages good behavior by rewarding that good behavior with praise or tangible rewards (e.g. an allowance, tickets to the movies, etc.). Bad behavior isn’t treated with more attention (this will only encourage kids to continue acting out), but rather is ignored.
Why Use Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement can be a great tool in any parent’s toolbox. Instead of scolding bad behavior, positive reinforcement encourages good behavior which is less damaging to a child’s confidence and conduct. As humans, we yearn for a feeling of approval from our friends, family and peers. Children, especially, want the approval and accolades of their elders. They aim to please and when positively reinforced, good behavior becomes much more consistent and prevalent than bad behavior.
For example, your child could act out in an attempt to get your attention. Not sitting still at the dinner table, interrupting or talking out of turn, and disrespecting others are all solid examples of this. When your child exhibits these behaviors and you react negatively, they are getting the attention they want, which to them seems like a reward. They are most likely to repeat these behaviors any time they want you to focus on them instead of the TV, their siblings or whatever else you might be doing at the time.
How to Use Positive Reinforcement
Ignore bad behavior
Bad behaviors can quickly snowball out of control. So, by exchanging negative responses to bad behaviors for positive responses to good behavior, you can save you and your child years of reprimanding, punishing, and mutual frustration. When your child acts badly, simply state that their behavior is undesirable and explain to them how they should act instead. When you notice that they begin to act the way you want, make sure to positively reinforce it. Getting through a whole dinner without standing up or wiggling around in their chair is a small victory that will quickly lead to weeks and months of calmer dinners and better behavior.
Praise and reward good behavior
Positive reinforcement relies on verbal acknowledgment or physical rewards to show your child that you notice their good behavior. They feel validated that they are doing the right thing and acting the right way. Most importantly, they have gained your approval. In addition, your child will also recognize the importance and value of acting responsibly and appropriately. The more you can use positive reinforcement, the quicker you will notice that negative behaviors will subside.
Simply put, positive reinforcement works best when it is consistent. Getting verbal accolades once a month isn’t enough for a child to see a pattern and connect good behavior with a good response from parents. Focus on positive behavior each and every day to have a lasting impact. Comment on things your child does right, chores they complete without being asked or bringing home good grades just to name a few examples. Focusing on the positive instead of the negative can help your child learn good behavior and can help you and your family communicate and support each other better.
Here at Steadfast Academy, we strongly believe in the values of positive reinforcement to help our kids learn and grow. To learn more about us, contact us today to schedule a tour!