As a parent, you are trying your best to raise your child to be the good person you want them to be. A part of that is to teach them what right and wrong is, and to do so while also showing your child that you appreciate good behaviour.
Children learn from their role models - you. They don’t just learn what they see you do, but they learn based on how you react to the things they do. So they clearly understand that you’re upset when you scold them. But guess what helps them learn faster? Encouraging the right kind of behaviour.
Positive reinforcement refers to encouraging the behaviour that you want to see, by rewarding your child every time they behave that way. This does not mean that you don’t scold your child, but you are making a deliberate effort to compliment them when they do good things.
Why you should reinforce good behaviour
Positive reinforcement helps your child understand how they should behave - the things you like them doing, and so they do these good things more often - be it cleaning their room, being polite to others or simply not throwing a tantrum.
It also improves your child’s mood and self-esteem. After all, who doesn’t want their child to be happy, confident and well-behaved?
How To Use Positive Reinforcement: 3 Tips
Of course, you don’t have to buy your kid a present or toss them a bar of chocolate every time they behave well. There is a certain way to use positive reinforcement. Keep these tips in mind:
1. Use internal and not material rewards
Sure, material rewards may make your child happy, but avoid them as much as possible. If your child does something good, reward them with praise, or telling them how proud of them you are. Keep away from buying them things or giving them food as a reward, because it is better to motivate their behaviour with internal rewards like pride or character than with external rewards. The effect will last longer.
Of course, the occasional reward for exceptional achievements - like small gifts - are not all wrong either. Just avoid making gifts, chocolate and toys a common reward.
2. Be specific
When you praise your child, let them know exactly what you are proud of. You do not want your child to misunderstand and assume that praise has to be an everyday occurence for simply doing normal things.
When you’re specific, it also helps your child understand where they stand, helping them to use your praise to repeat the desired behaviour.
3. Set goals for improvement
Make sure that you encourage your child to grow. Once you compliment them, tell them that they’re not far from an even better goal. For example, if they waited in line for the swing at the park, make sure to let them know you’re happy, but also tell them that you hope they will do it everyday.
How To Avoid Accidental Positive Reinforcement
Sometimes, the things your child does could be a way to seek attention. In that case, you might only reward them by giving them your attention, even if you do scold them.
Avoid giving reinforcement to such behaviours. Ignoring this behaviour makes your child stop eventually as they get bored thanks to their small attention span.
Finally, remember that your child is trying his best to behave the way you want them to. They may not already know what you expect, so be patient with them, and discourage behaviour that you do not appreciate, while also encouraging all their good behaviour. Allowing them to see how well they behaved helps them try to behave that way again, so that they can feel like a good child who can make mommy proud.