Your kiddo is going to get your attention one way or another, so choose to be tactful on what kind of behaviors you acknowledge, reward and reinforce. To strengthen positive behaviors and increase the likelihood of your child repeating those desirable behaviors, give positive attention and offer immediate rewards. If you catch him being good and indicate that you notice, he’ll be less likely to take a negative attention-seeking approach.
The cheapest, easiest and most accessible form of immediate rewards can be delivered through praise. You can choose from a limitless amount of praising through words or phrases. However, when you choose your phrases, be sure to praise the specific behavior and avoid generalizations. Phrases, such as “Wow, you ran so fast to second base” or “You did fantastic on that spelling test,” are more effective than “Good boy” or “Great job.” You also have to be honest and genuine, otherwise your child may begin to think you don’t actually mean your statements, and they will be less effective.
You can pair your use of praising words with some positive physical gestures. High-fives, pats on the back, hugs, shoulder squeezes and even a silly happy dance can help solidify your praise. If your child shies away from public displays of affection or doesn’t like to be touched, don’t go over the top. A discrete gesture works, too, like two thumbs-up and a big smile or wink.
A physical object can act as a tangible reward for positive behaviors. A small treasure chest of trinkets works well for offering immediate rewards. When your child cleans up his room immediately after being asked or helps his sister out with her homework without being told to, pull out the chest and let him choose a treat. The chest can be filled with inexpensive items, such as plastic rings, stickers, temporary tattoos, small toy cars, plastic army men or friendship bracelets.
A sticker chart offers an immediate reward, but it also allows your child to save up for another item. You can set a designated point system and offer a bigger reward after he earns a certain amount of stickers. For instance, if your child gets a sticker after every completed household chore, you can reward him with a new book after five stickers or a new action figure after 10 or 15 stickers. Encourage your child to participate in the point-and-reward system, which becomes more effective when he knows that he’s working toward something he wants.
- HealthyChilren.org: Positive Reinforcement Through Rewards
- Parenting with Love and Logic; Foster Cline, M.D. & Jim Fay
- Brigham Young University: Positive Rewards and Consequences
- Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: Acknowledging Children’s Positive Behaviors
- Ohio State University: Effective Behavior Management
- Positive Behavioral Support: Strategies for Teachers; Michael B. Ruef , et al.
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