Positive Reinforcement is “catching” a child/adolescent doing something you want them to do and rewarding it. The child gets attention and reward as positive reinforcement for doing the right thing and will focus on repeating that behavior.
Positive Reinforcement works because it gives children positive goals to work towards instead of only focusing on negative consequences to avoid. Positive reinforcement fulfills strong basic psychological needs of every child as well as setting a more positive and healthy tone for the caregiver-child relationship.
All behavior is learned!!
Behavioral Research demonstrates that if tasks can be: 1) geared to the child at his own level, 2) presented in logical sequences, with 3) the child being told when he is making correct/incorrect responses, and 4)contingent rewards given for coming closer and closer toward defined goals, then the child will certainly learn. The desire to learn must be taught. Rewards for learning must be established.
Successful parents are those who are able to elicit a pleasurable response toward the most rigorous pursuits and make the most difficult task pleasurable. In other words, they make getting it right, fun! If behaviors conducive to long-term goals are not acquired early on, it is unlikely that they will be acquired later on. In other words, the sooner you start positive reinforcement, the better.
Everyone has seen The Nanny on television. She makes learning fun for children. She also includes children’s input in the plan of action. Giving children a voice at an early age helps to build self-esteem and motivates/encourages participation in the plan of action. You want them to grow up and be independent, self-sufficient adults, right?
The good news is that the ‘token economy’ method of behavioral change works in a variety of situations including: mainstream children, gifted children, children with ADHD, children with other mental health issues and learning disabilities, adults and even pets. That is right!
This method is used on a daily basis without our realizing it in all kinds of human relationships, personal and business. For example, we apply for a new job; we get an interview and are hired. We enter job training or orientation early on so we learn what the expectations are for the job. As we follow the plan of action, we are rewarded with positive comments, keeping the job and a pay check, as a result. Bingo!
That is how our society is set up, a token economy. If we follow the rules and laws of the land, we are rewarded in a positive manner. It makes sense now, doesn’t it? So, who has the healthier self-esteem in society? Is it the people who follow the rules/ laws and are rewarded with positive measures or the people who do not follow the rules and laws and are rewarded with negative measures? Do the negative measures change the behavior of those who do not follow the rules and laws? No, and sadly somewhere along the way, they never learned how to be rewarded for positive behavior.
Early on as a juvenile substance abuse counselor, I learned that there are no bad kids, only bad parents, who learned faulty parenting skills from their parents. It became clear that overbearing, forceful or manipulative parenting and parenting with little-to-no guidance, structure, support and consequences resulted in the same dilemma, a child with low self-esteem with behavioral problems.
Positive reinforcement is a simple, reality-based technique that can help turn your child's behavior around—often very quickly. Here's the recipe:
1. Your child wants your approval very badly.
2. You notice and comment on specific positive behavior and provide natural and logical rewards.
3. Your child feels noticed, validated, and approved of, the good behavior is increased, and misbehavior is prevented or decreased.
Positive reinforcement reinforces what the child is doing right rather than concentrating on what the child is doing wrong. It increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. It supports your child's positive deeds and qualities through enthusiasm, descriptive encouragement, and natural, logical rewards.
4. Your child also begins to recognize the value of his own positive qualities and actions. You want a child with healthy self-esteem, right?
Positive reinforcement is at play every time your child brings home his report card, or every time you get a bonus at work. But positive reinforcement works best when it is not a once-in-a-while thing; the more it happens, the more effective it is. That means daily!
Just how much positive reinforcement do you offer your child?
You probably offer some already, most parents naturally do. Yet no matter how good at it you think you are, you may be surprised to find that, in reality, most parents focus on the negative. How much negativity is creeping into your parenting?
Learning to parent well is a process, and there is always room for improvement. It is helpful to look at the problem areas. Here's an easy little exercise inspired by the work of James Windell (author of 8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child) that lets you clearly see how many negative and critical remarks you make. (Hey, try the exercise! You may be pleasantly surprised!)
Get a little notebook at the supermarket, one that can fit in a pocket or a purse. Get a pen, too, and put it in the pocket or purse next to the notebook. Ready to begin? Every time you make a critical or negative comment about your child, open the notebook and make a little mark. If you have time, write down what you said and the circumstances. Do it for five days, and don't try to change what you are doing, just make notes. That's it! (Well, that's almost it.)
Don't share this exercise (or the fact that you are doing it) with your child. That may mean excusing yourself to the bathroom frequently, or dashing off to another room to make your tally marks, but if you share the fact that you are doing this little experiment, your kids might get upset, you'll start adjusting your behavior, and the exercise's results won't be accurate. If you have more than one child, label a page for each one, and keep a separate tally. Make sure you count feedback that starts out positive but includes a “but” as in: “I really appreciate you doing the dishes, Sally, but please try and rinse the soap off better next time.” Pay special attention when you are angry, disappointed, tired, or hungry (people tend to get very crabby and critical when their blood sugar levels are low).
At the end of five days, take a deep breath and add up your tally. There's no magic number—whether your reaction is “Ugh!” or “Wow!” it doesn't matter. Knowledge is necessary (even when it is painful). What did you find? Have a lot of tally marks in your notebook?) If you're like most parents, you parent more through criticism than through positive reinforcement. We simply expect kids to behave themselves (without giving them a lot of tools to know how) and then when they don't, we hit the roof. Sound familiar? Look again at your tally sheet. Don't feel bad, this is just a place to begin. Nobody but you is counting your tally (aren't you glad you kept it private now?) and you can tear up the pages in that teeny notebook, if you like.
Most of us are in fire-fighting mode most of the time, trying to get things done, get through life relatively intact, and put out the behavior fires as they flare. It seems easier to notice what's annoying or troubling than it is to notice how wonderful your child really is. Some parents are so afraid of raising a stuck-up little monster that they bend over backwards to never give a compliment, or describe positive behavior. Not a good idea.
By doing an exercise like this, you will become aware of your expectations for your child and your patterns of treatment. If you have more than one child, the exercises will show you the differences in treatment and expectations. Once you become aware of it, bingo! You can change!
Let’s Get Positive Exercise
If you're used to focusing on negative behavior, it can be hard to start using positive reinforcement techniques. Let's practice being positive. In order to give positive reinforcement, you need to recognize specifically what to reinforce. Once you recognize the positive behavior, you can use descriptive encouragement. Here's a quick exercise for you. Just for the next day or so:
1) Make a list of things your child does right or well.
2) Blow off the negative (let it go free!).
3) Frame each positive thing in positive terminology (“He got dressed easily and got along with his sister at breakfast”) instead of in the negative (“he didn't fight getting dressed, for once, and he didn't whack Nikki at breakfast”).
4) Notice how the behavior of even a “misbehaving” child is mostly positive.
Every morning, when you get in your car to drive to work, the most obnoxious beeping noise occurs until you buckle your seat belt. This is “negative reinforcement,” and it can be an effective way of encouraging proper behavior. In order to get rid of that bleeping beep, you buckle up. A balance between negative and positive reinforcement is important for a child's development.
If you tell a child he's a pathetic, sniveling worm, he'll either go to the garden and start eating dirt, or he'll rebel, move to the other coast, and never speak to you again (and good for him!). If, on the other hand, you support and encourage him, he'll do his best for you. When you're using encouragement:
1) Keep it very specific. “I noticed you worked for an hour on your homework.” “You certainly emptied the dishwasher fast and well!” The more specific you get, the more your child will learn to figure out for herself when she is doing a good job.
2) Say it deliberately. Remind yourself to comment on positive behavior. It takes a while to make this kind of commentary second nature, so it will have to be deliberate for a while. It may even feel forced. That's okay!
3) Effort counts. You can give descriptive encouragement for effort even if the results don't turn out so well. “You worked very hard on your homework, Adam. I'm sure next time you will get the right answer.”
4) Focus on improvement. “Your arms have gotten much stronger from all the swimming practice you've been doing.”
5) Say it often.
(Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child by Ericka Lutz.)
Bad title, good information.
Remember, even if your children are grown and on their own, the ‘child within’ still needs your approval. It is never too late to give them that gift. Good luck!