Catch them doing something right and praise them for it!
It’s a simple idea, but there’s a lot to it when it comes to parenting. Frequently, parents notice when children are misbehaving and use punishment to change behaviors.
The problem with consistent use of punishment is that compliance is temporary. Once the fear of punishment is removed (e.g., parents are not present or kids think they will not be caught), the behavior continues. In addition, when parents focus on negative behaviors, children also learn to focus on the negative events in life, such as failures and when things go wrong.
I encourage parents to focus on, and reinforce, desired behaviors! Research supports that reinforcing positive behaviors is an effective and healthy way to increase desired behaviors. Notice when your child is doing something right and praise them for it! Over time this will not only increase positive behaviors, but enrich your relationship with your children. They’ll look forward to your praise, rather than dread your criticism or attention to negatives.
Note: A good ratio of reinforcement-to-punishment is 5-to-1. That means, Parents should notice and reinforce desired behaviors 5 times-to-every 1 time that they correct, criticize or complain! What’s your ratio of reinforcement-to-punishment?
Here are some examples of child reinforcement:
- Verbal Praise (e.g., “great job,” “I’m so proud of you,” “Yay,” “High Five,” “Wow”)
- Facial expressions of excitement or smile.
- Points (these points can be used for prizes or privileges later)
- Prizes (e.g., candy, toys, ice cream, surprise)
- Privileges (e.g., video games, play time, trampoline time, play date)
- Special time with parent
- Fun activities (dance off, play time, let your child pick)
Hint: If a reinforcer is not effective, it may need to be closer to the behavior. Depending on age, a child may be able to wait until the end of the week, end of the day, or require to be reinforced right away. Adjust accordingly.
Hint: Never give in to a tantrum or unwanted behaviors! If you do, you have reinforced tantrum or maladaptive behavior and the behavior will get worse.
Hint: Have him earn privileges, instead of taking them away. He will feel accomplished! So, finish task, then earn play time.