After talking with my friend Elizabeth at our little town's firefighter parade yesterday (such a fun event!), I've been thinking a lot about positive reinforcement. In very simple terms, it's the practice of catching kids going good, instead of being on the watch for them to behave poorly. Here are some actions I try to practice in relation to positive reinforcement:
- Identify the behaviors you'd like to change. Yes, we'd like our children to be perfect all the time, but what are the 2-3 issues that you are focusing on with your child this week? If you choose a handful of weekly/monthly goals instead of tackling all issues at once, you will probably have a much happier home!
- Watch for good behavior. My 6yr old son has a LOT of energy, so I'm always looking for ways to praise him when he manages his energy wisely, instead of choosing destructive patterns.
- Reward. Think potty training. When you have success with potty training, you give the child a little treat. Maybe you give an m&m for trying, and an oreo for going pee, and the child gets to watch a special movie when he poops in the potty. You're rewarding good behavior.
- Be creative. Rewards don't need to be expensive or elaborate. Here are some examples from my house this week: gum for helping clean up a big mess, reading an extra story for sharing with a sibling, a big thank you hug for helping mommy with the laundry, ice cream for potty training success, saying "God loves it when you share with others"...
- Look for patterns. Are your praises/rewards working, or do you need to find a different strategy? What works today might not work next week. And it's always different for every child. (Hint: PRAY for wisdom!!)
- Don't forget to include discipline, whether that means derived consequences, natural consequences or spanking. Praising for good behavior is very important, but discipline is also important for training up a child.