I am sure I’m not alone in this. Some days are better than others and some days are downright awful. Depending on the level of listening skills my children decide to display, I can find myself endlessly repeating certain sentences and phrases. But how do we modify this behaviour? How do we get ourselves out of this endless repetitive cycle?
There are many different techniques you can try as a parent. In this post, I will be looking specifically at using positive reinforcement as a tool to help you modify your child’s behaviour and to create an environment of collaboration in your home.
I’ve decided to categorise the phrases I seem to have on repeat, according to the areas they pertain to. Do you recognise some of them?
In this post I discuss the following topics:
You’d think this would be a no brainer! Children should want to be clean and sweet-smelling? Apparently not! Sometimes they are just too lazy to be bothered to take care of these things themselves. Now I don’t expect my 4-year-old to stay on top of this quite yet, But I certainly do think it is not too much to expect from a 6 or 8-year-old.
My kids know the rules of behaviour, they are fully aware of the expectations we have of them. We have reward systems in place and sanctions for breaking these rules. YET, the following gems are repeated almost daily…*scream*…
In our home, we work together to keep the house tidy and neat. I do the cleaning (which they may help with) but they have to keep their space tidy and neat. The expectation is that they tidy each evening before bedtime so that it is ready for a new start the following morning. I also want them to help out by putting things away, clearing the dinner table and helping to keep communal areas clear of clutter.
These are the things that you do daily and feel should not even need mentioning as they are expected every day!
But before you give up and lose it completely, it may be worth reading this.
In behavioural studies, 3 approaches to eliciting the desired behaviour can also be found in parents’ discipline styles: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment.
Child experts agree that, of the 3, positive reinforcement is the best way to draw out positive behaviour in children and even keep negative behaviour in check.
Some parents mistakenly associate positive reinforcement with bribing or giving material rewards. In bribery, you promise something bigger and more valuable than the behaviour you are expecting. You also tend to negotiate or beg, even increasing the value of the prize, just to make sure that the behaviour you wish is manifested. Giving a child verbal encouragement or small tokens after they exhibit a certain desirable behaviour does not qualify for bribery.
Other parents steer clear from positive reinforcers for fear that they might spoil their child. However, it is far from spoiling if the reward given is commensurate to the positive behaviour exhibited by the child. Material rewards need not be expensive things; small tokens like stickers or erasers are hardly decadent. Non-material reinforcers are highly recommended: a hug, a wink, and a compliment for a job well done.
There is no specific age at which to start using positive reinforcement; children learn to relate reinforcers to their behaviour after several similar experiences and patterns. Good deeds that were reinforced at an early age become part of the child’s personality.
As children grow, their needs will differ in the same way that our expectations of them will expand. So, the reinforcers may change, but the general principle remains. The success of positive reinforcement greatly depends not on the child, but on the adult using it as a disciplinary approach.
When used successfully, positive reinforcement can develop a child’s intrinsic motivation. It can provide children with some understanding of expectations and behaviour.
Here are key points to help parents effectively wield positive reinforcement:
International studies have shown that praise definitely increases people’s inner interest in activities. Anything too much or too little is proven ineffective. Too much praise is ineffective because it comes too easy and often reduces the value of praise. Too little of it and lack of consistency do not give it much significance, as well. Here are some keywords to remember when giving praise:
Using the tips and techniques detailed above, you could be on your way to eliminating the need to repeat yourself all day long and build a more collaborative atmosphere in your home.