From a very early age, children learn the associations between behaviors and consequences. The strategy of positive reinforcement is simply to utilize these associations to shape behavior by providing our children with pleasant consequences for engaging in desired behavior.
Creating an environment of positive reinforcement
- There are many ways to acknowledge good/appropriate behaviors such as by using praise and encouragement, or by using behavior management tools such as reward charts, token economies, behavior contracts and certificates.
- Create a positive learning atmosphere around your child. Guide them toward appropriate behaviors by reinforcing their good behaviors. Recognize their efforts. Respond to their attempts.
- Ignore their bad or inappropriate behaviors (remember attention is a powerful motivator for children. If you constantly “tell off” your child you are in effect rewarding them with your attention and it is likely that the unwanted behaviors will continue.)
Why use positive reinforcement?
- Positive reinforcement allows our children to feel good about themselves.
- The strategy of positive reinforcement with children is a valuable, effective, and credentialed method of shaping behavior and is used extensively throughout the specialist childhood services, including mental health, medicine and education.
- Positive reinforcement is an accepted and healthy strategy to shape behavior. You are not relying on physical or verbal punishment for short-term compliance.
- The practice of making our kids feel good about themselves rather than bad about themselves, creates a very powerful foundation for our children’s’ positive self-image. This can follow them through childhood, into adolescence, and into adulthood.
- As a strategy to resolve bad or inappropriate behaviors, positive reinforcement, used consistently, is effective for promoting long-term behavioral change. It is not a quick fix solution, and it is not restricted to just short-term gain.
- Utilizing the approach of positive reinforcement, encourages us to be on the lookout for good behavior. Often we overlook desired behaviors because they are not troublesome, and we respond more often to undesired behaviors. Positive reinforcement allows us parents to “catch” ourselves when we fall into this pattern.