Changing Children's Behavior by Using Positive Reinforcement Methods - Tips and Suggestions
By Andrew Loh
Just sit down for a minute and ponder over the events that took place in
your home on the previous day. Note down the number of instances of bad
behavior displayed by your children. Did you notice them in the first
place? If yes, how serious were they? Were they socially unacceptable
and truly negative? What did you do when your children displayed those
instances of bad behavior? Do your children repeat them over and again
throughout the day and week? Did you say anything to them as soon as you
noticed those instances of bad behavior? What did you do to avoid those
episodes of bad behavior? Were you successful in efforts? If you faced
some problems or if you find that your children are difficult to
control, do not worry! Here are some simple tips and techniques that
will help you shape your children's unacceptable behaviors.
Everyone agree with the fact that unacceptable behavior in chidden is
easy to correct by using some form of reinforcers or rewards. However,
using the right type of reinforcement is very critical if you want to
get the best possible results. Before using any of the methods mentioned
below, you may also need to assess the present scenarios. Most of the
parents often simply fail to notice the positive things that their
children do or perform. On the contrary, they tend to focus only on the
negative side of their personalities.
This is simply because children could annoy them or they could even embarrass them in the public.
Just think for a second. Did you ever know that when children notice
something, they tend to repeat it, over and again? If you just focus on negative
things in your children, then they may never do something that is
positive. In other words, parents may be the primary reason for genesis
of problems that relate to unacceptable behavior in children. In fact,
they may unknowingly program their children to believe that whatever
they are doing (negative behavior) is right and they can continue it
just because their parents are noticing it.
There are numerous differences between positive and negative reinforcement methods. Some
people use negative rewards to correct behavioral problems. Though these
rewards provide instant results, they may prove to be counterproductive
in later stages. Therefore, it is always better to deploy positive
reinforcement to shape children's unacceptable behavior. Here are some
examples of negative and positive reinforcement.
Examples of Negative reinforcement
Indeed, negative reinforcement shapes children's behavior. Negative reinforcement occurs when you
remove a specific stimulus after the behavior that eventually causes
that behavior to increase in gradual manner. Here the term “negative”
does not connote something that is bad. In a manner, you will be taking
or weaning away something from the scene.
Consider this simple example. Your son simply refuses to do his homework. In fact, this
defiance has become a habit for him. To rectify the situation, you start
nagging him all the time to do homework. Here, nagging is the negative
stimulus. After continual nagging for some time, your son starts doing
the homework. Now that he is doing his homework, you will stop nagging
him. This negative type of reinforcement makes a person start adapting a
Here is another example. You will inform your
child that you will exempt him from doing weekend chores if he assists
you in cleaning the entire house. Here, you are enforcing a sense of
negative reinforcement as removing the undesirable stimulus of “doing
the weekend chores”. However, there is a rider that is to help you
complete the house cleaning work.
The biggest drawback of using negative reinforcement is that children tend to develop a habitual
tendency to avoid doing something deliberately. In other words, they
will know that rewards are easy to get when they resist doing something
that is good. On the contrary, parents tend to increase the instances of
nagging just to make their children do something that is positive and
good. In a sense, this negative relationship may work for sometime
although the habit of using negative reinforcement is not too good in
Examples of positive reinforcement
Using positive reinforcement is far better and result-oriented than
employing negative reinforcement. A sense of positive reinforcement
occurs when you present a specific stimulus after the expression of a
particular behavior that is both positive and good. Because of this, the
good behavior increases and children tend to adapt it as a habit. You
will also be adding something that is positive in nature.
Positive reinforcement occurs in many types. Some of them are
concrete reinforcer, social reinforcer and activity reinforcer.
Concrete reinforcer is something that is very concrete and tangible.
For example, if your son helps you clean the house, he will get a pack
Social reinforcer is simple gesture (good) from you in
response to a good behavior. For example, when your son completes the
homework, you will give him a “thumbs up” in response to the good
In Activity reinforcer, you will present your
child a positive opportunity to engage in a fun or thrilling activity.
For example, you will take your daughter to a movie when she completes
an assigned task.
Parents always use a gentle mix of both
positive and negative reinforcements. For example, when children resort
to tantrum, parents may invariably give something that pacifies them.
This is a case of negative reinforcement. Other examples are also very
common; a simple warning glance, a frown on your face or negative remark
is examples of negative reinforcement. Using a positive reinforcement is
always good because it may shape your children's behavior in a
productive manner. Rewarding children for their positive behavior is
long lasting and permanent. Positive rewards encourage good behavior
that is affable and pleasing.
A simple, praise or a positive remark can go a long way to shape your children's behavior. It might be
“John, I really liked the way in which you
responded to my instruction and did all those work by yourself and
without my help. You did a great work”.
Your bedroom looks so clean. Did you do that all by yourself? You must
have worked so hard”
“Johnny, I am so pleased to see
that you were so successful in finishing that project. Why don't we go
out and have the dinner together?”
Here are some simple examples of positive reinforcement:
Praise: It is the best shaping tool. Children simply love someone praising them for
their work. Praising is a form of approval too. Let the praise for good
behavior remains sincere and honest. Simple examples are, “You did a
great job”, “it was an excellent decision” or “I liked the way you did
Selective ignoring: This a very good
tool when two or more children are involved. Selective ignoring is a
trick that you can use to make your children adhere to certain rules.
For example, let us say that your children are quarreling for the
possession of a toy. Although no one is getting hurt, the squabble is
still undesirable. At this instance, you can say “both of you are so big
to quarrel for a simple toy. You are getting upset for that simple toy
too. No way! I am not wasting my time to involve myself with this silly
problem”. This simple gesture will help children solve the present
problem on their own and without any intervention.
Time out: This useful tool can shape your children's behavior in a
better manner. It is a positive reward in response to a good behavior.
Taking time out could be going out for a walk, of playing in a park,
eating ice cream and even watching a movie in a theater.
Motivators and reminders: Timely reminders could work
as wonderful tools for shaping your children's behavior. Reminders work
best when you speak in a commanding voice. It may look like a negative
reinforcement. However, you will not be presenting any reward before the
desired result. With effective reminding, you can get the result you
want. On the other hand, motivators are something that urges the
children to work hard and develop a good behavior. Children will know
that parents will reward them when they display good behavior. This
self-belief will act as motivators for next instance of good behavior.
Consistent practice will
shape your children's behavior in a better manner. Parents will need to
guide their children with a variety of techniques and methods to shape
their behavioral patterns.
10 Days to a Less Defiant Child: The Breakthrough Program for Overcoming Your Child's Difficult Behavior
By Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D
Occasional clashes between parents and children are not uncommon, but when defiant behavior
- such as tantrums, resistance to chores, and negativity - becomes chronic, it can cause big problems
within the family. In 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, child and family psychologist Dr. Jeff Bernstein
has developed a ground-breaking 10-day program to help parents gain back control over their defiant child or teen.
This powerful and exceptionally reader-friendly guide explains what causes defiance in kids, why it's
so destructive to the family, and shows parents step-by-step how they can end the behavior. Simple-to-follow
and extremely effective, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child will bring much-needed relief to the millions of
frustrated parents out there living with defiant children.