Positive reinforcement encourages learning (Tripp, 2022). Providing positive reinforcement can be an effective way to increase the behaviors you want from your child. Children who are positively reinforced for their good work are better motivated to keep working hard. This technique rewards the behaviors you want to see more often (desired behavior + positive reinforcement = more desired behaviors) and keeps you focused on the good, instead of criticizing and focusing on the bad behaviors.
Please don’t miss understand, this is a tool in your discipline toolbox.
Positive reinforcement is not the only successful method and there is a time and place to use negative reinforcement depending on offense (e.g., removing game time, toys, and other privileges). The key is to remain consistent because if you do not follow through on the reinforcement whether it’s positive or negative, your discipline approach just lost all creditability with your child. The reinforcement should match the behavior as well. Be careful not to overindulge or be “over the top”. The real world is nothing like that and your child will be set-up for much disappointment. Be clear, make sure your child understands the rules, and please do not expect perfection (Novotni et al, 2021). We can guide our children towards the path of success, but we cannot control them.
Let’s be honest here.
The only person you can control is yourself. If it were possible to control our children there would be no misbehaviors to speak of. However, if you are one of those people who are a 10 on the 1-10 control scale, psychotherapy is recommended to aid in reducing the anxiety of not being in control. Trying to gain perfection from our children is idealistic and not realistic. Expecting only perfection can lead to over criticism known as destructive criticism. As a result, your child may feel anxious and not want to try anything new on their own due to the fear of failure or disappointing you. We want to promote constructive criticism. This will foster further growth, self-confidence, and accountability. I have learned more from my mistakes and failure in life promoting adaptation, problem-solving, and resolutions which later results in success. Our children need to learn how to achieve and fail with grace. A parents guidance, not control, facilitates this growth. As parents, we make the beds we lie in for ourselves and later our children. So go get help and make the world better for yourself and especially for your young, loved ones. Sorry I digressed! Remember, I am advocating for those who cannot.
Now back to +reinforcement!
When just starting to gain or build a desired behavior, immediate and frequent positive reinforcement is needed, especially for children with learning concerns for mastery of desired behaviors (Tripp, 2022). As the desired behavior becomes evident and self-driven by the child, you can vary the time and frequency until it is mastered. Just make sure the timeframe is appropriate for the child. Positive reinforcement grows and acknowledges the child’s motivation and initiative to just employ the desired behavior independently. For example, “what a big girl/boy for saying “please” all by yourself!! I didn’t even need to remind you!”. Positive reinforcement can blossom as your child blossoms with skills! The trick is not to be predictable and boring. You know your child the best so use what works for her/him.
Examples of Positive Reinforcement:
- High Five
- Fist bump
- Clapping; cheering
- Offering special activity (after the desired behavior occurs; we are not bribing)
- Verbal Praise
- Public recognition: Sharing how proud you are of them to another person, when your child is within earshot.
- Choose your own activity time with caregiver
- Free time
- Extra Time
- Star Charts / Sticker Charts (usually to earn a greater gift or activity for older children once stickers and stars lose their luster)
- Less work on a night of chores
Subtle Displays of Approval
- Secret codes
Ackerman, C. E., MA. (2022, June 20). Positive Reinforcement in Psychology (Definition 5 Examples). PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/positive-reinforcement-psychology/#:%7E:text=Positive%20reinforcement%20is%20perhaps%20the%20most%20widely%20used,piece%20of%20candy%20for%20picking%20up%20his%20toys%3B
Tripp, G., PhD. (2022, July 13). Carrots vs. Sticks: The Science of Reward and Punishment for Children with ADHD. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/positive-reinforcement-reward-and-punishment-adhd/
ADDitude Editors, & Novotni, M., PhD. (2021, March 9). “None of Us Were Trained How to Be Good Parents:” An ADHD Guide to Behavior Therapy. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/using-behavior-therapy-with-your-child/
Suggested Reading from ADDitude Magazine: Behavior Modification: What It Is And How To Do It, 8th Edition, by Garry Martin and Joseph Pear (Prentice Hall) Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for Parents of Two- to Six-Year-Olds , by Rex Forehand, Ph.D., and Nicholas Long, Ph.D. (McGraw-Hill) Your Defiant Child, Second Edition: Eight Steps to Better Behavior, by Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D., and Christine M. Benton (Guilford) Homework Success for Children with ADHD: A Family-School Intervention Program, by Thomas J. Power, James L. Karustis, and Dina F. Habboushe (Guilford)