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Using Positive Reinforcement to Improve Your Child’s Behavior

Is Little Jimmy being loud when you are on the phone? Lilly didn’t clean up her toys when you asked? Does homework time equal argument time? Does it take countless reminders to get your child to do their chores? Using positive reinforcement techniques will motivate positive, prosocial, appropriate behaviors within your children during all of these situations.

We have all heard of that age old phrase “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Your grandmother probably told you that when you were growing up. Your grandmother was correct! You do get better results when you are positive and giving praise, then when you are negative and punishing.

Positive reinforcement has been scientifically proven to increase the behavior that you want to see more often. Positive reinforcement is used in a multitude of ways throughout our everyday life, not just in Applied Behavior Analysis. For example, for adults, receiving a paycheck is positive reinforcement to continue to go to work.

Just as positive reinforcement works effectively with adults, it works equally as well with children. This is also true when they are behaving in a way that – on the surface – does not appear to deserve a reward.

Positive reinforcement doesn’t mean that your child needs to receive a special reward for everything they do. There are many different forms of positive reinforcement. Depending on your child and how motivating the reinforcer is, you can use a variety of positive reinforcers for multiple behaviors in the home. These reinforcers can also be doled out right away or staggered out over time, depending upon the behavior or “lesson” you are trying to teach.

For example, you might say “good job” or “thank you” to your child when they follow your directions the first time you say it. When they complete their homework without a fight, they earn 15 minutes of iPad time. However, if your child completes their chore chart for 5 days in a row, they may earn something “bigger”. This may mean a tangible, more motivating prize, such as a toy from a prize box or a movie night with the family.

Use positive reinforcement with your child every time you see something “good” happen. Focusing on the positive will help ensure that these desired behaviors occur more often. The change won’t happen overnight, but you will see results. Remember – “practice makes perfect”! The more you positively reinforce desirable behavior – the better your results you will be!

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