How Not to Reinforce Negative Behavior With Kids

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To parent successfully, determine the behaviors you want from your kids and then deliberately encourage those behaviors. Along those same lines, don't inadvertently reinforce undesired, negative behaviors. This conscious maneuvering can help your child learn your expectations and perform accordingly, according to pediatrician and author William Sears at AskDrSears.com.

Remove Reinforcement

  • A common reason for negative behavior involves the desire for attention, according to an article on the Virginia Cooperative Extension website. When children misbehave to attract attention, an effective response is to remove any reinforcement -- in other words, ignore it. After ascertaining that your child is unhurt, turn a deaf ear until your child stops the undesired behavior and engages in positive behavior instead.

Motivating the Positive

  • While not reinforcing negative behavior, watch for any signs of positive behavior that you can reinforce. By spotlighting the behavior you desire with specific praise, you show your child that you will reward positive behavior while penalizing negative behavior. For example, if your child has a temper tantrum to attempt to get his way, ignore the tantrum. When your child calms down and brings his behavior back into control, become responsive with your child again.

Consistency

  • Keep your child safe and secure by responding consistently to behavior. If your child has a habit of negative behavior and you are trying to make positive changes, consistency will be especially important, according to certified professional counselor and clinical psychologist Annette Nay. Respond appropriately each time you see either negative or positive behavior, removing reinforcement for negative behavior and reinforcing positive behavior. Expect your child to test your consistency to determine whether you intend to follow through on this behavior modification technique. By maintaining your resolve and remaining consistent, your child will realize she needs to conform to your expectations.

Consequences

  • Consequences can be a natural deterrent for negative behavior, according to the AskDrSears website. Natural consequences, the kind that occur without any intervention or involvement from you, are powerful lessons about avoiding negative behaviors. For example, if your child procrastinates and runs out of time to complete a science project, he might receive a failing grade. In that circumstance, you had zero involvement in the consequence, yet your child learns a valuable lesson about the timely completion of homework.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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