The Power of Positive Reinforcement
By Brittney Cameron, MSW, Youth First, Inc.
One of the most difficult parts of parenting is managing your child’s behavior. Behavior management is crucial because we want to raise kids who know how to act and behave appropriately, both at home and in social settings.
So how do you manage your child’s behavior? Do you find yourself constantly yelling at your child to call out their misbehavior? Are you often losing your temper and feel like you are already overwhelmed? If you want to see a change in your child’s behavior, you may want to reconsider your approach. This is where positive reinforcement comes in.
Positive reinforcement is a parenting technique that is used to encourage obedience and teach desired behavior without the use of punishment, threat, abuse, shame, or humiliation. The long-term benefits of positive reinforcement establish a positive impact on the child’s long-term behavior.
Negative reinforcement can instill anxiety and fear that may result in long-term negative impacts on a child’s self worth. Some of the important benefits of positive reinforcement make your child feel loved, develop your child’s self-esteem, and boost your confidence as a parent!
Here are some examples of positive reinforcement that you can practice with your child.
- Encourage your child to clean up by offering praise right when it happens. As you see them start to pick up their toys, offer verbal praise for them starting the effort by saying something like, “I like how hard you are working to put your toys away.”
- If mealtimes are a battle, reinforce your child taking a bite of food even if they do not eat the entire thing. Try to stray away from bribing your child with dessert.
- Instead of nagging your child 20 times to brush their teeth, reinforce the steps leading up to the teeth brushing. If you explain that it is time for your child to brush their teeth and they start moving toward the bathroom, you can verbally praise them for starting the process.
- When you see your child independently starting their homework, you can use verbal positive reinforcement to encourage them to continue. Focus on the process of doing the homework itself rather than on how your child does on the homework.
- Similarly to how you approach homework, when your child does well on a test you want to praise the effort. This reinforces the idea that hard work is to be celebrated.
- Sometimes kids can be timid about trying something new. To encourage them, praise your child’s effort. Rather than saying, “You played so well!” you can say, “I know how scary it can be to do something new. I like how you tried this even though you were scared.”
Positive reinforcement may take some practice, but once you start using the technique of praising the process rather than the outcome, it can be hugely beneficial to your children and will strengthen your relationship.