Loving our kids is easy, right? Well, we love it when we can spend quality time with them. However, there are those times when it seems that all we do with our kids is fight and scream, leaving us with nothing but a migraine headache and an upset child!
This is an ongoing negative cycle – you react to your child’s bad behavior, then they react to your reaction. As if that isn’t bad enough, you have to then go home and explain to your spouse why you can’t cook dinner, play with the other children or clean up the house. Having the knowledge, tools, and appropriate strategies for you and your child make better decisions will help break this negative cycle and encourage positive behavior.
The first thing I always asks my clients is, what are you currently doing to discipline your child? Most parents will respond by saying that they often get mad, yell, or send their child to time-out. While all of these suggestions are good, there isn’t a “cookie-cutter” method for disciplining children. We must remember that every behavior is a form of communication in itself and occurs for a specific reason.
Most parents want a happier, more peaceful relationship with their children, which is why they often give in to their negative behaviors. Alternatively, you can use the following positive reinforcement strategies to foster a peaceful relationship without enabling bad behavior.
The three most common forms of positive reinforcement strategies that I use are:
- Reward Charts
- Reward charts are tools for behavior management – a child is rewarded with stickers or some other tangible reinforcer immediately following desired behavior.
- Token Economy
- This is a form of behavior modification wherein tokens are rewarded for appropriate behavior and can later be cashed in for valued rewards.
- Using a token economy system gives kids the power to own their behavior, good or bad Kids learn how to be responsible and recognize their positive and negative behaviors. For example, if Sammy listens well, does what he is told, acts kindly towards others, plays well with his sister, shares his toys, and cleans up after himself, he will now earn a token each time. Then he will get the chance to spend his tokens on whatever he wants!
- It teaches the importance of delayed gratification
- Behavior Contracts
- This is a great tool for you and your child to make together.
- Be clear as to your requirements and when you expect your child to complete his or her tasks.
- Fill out the behavior contract and have both you and your child sign off on it – an act that can really pass on the importance, expectations and seriousness of the contract.
-You and your child must follow through with the specific terms you agreed upon.
A Behavior Analyst will be able to determine the function of your child’s behavior, then choose the best strategy of positive reinforcement. With my clients I often use a behavior chart in which children will earn a “token,” (e.g. a sticker, dollar or penny) immediately after exhibiting positive behavior. Once they have earned enough “tokens,” they will get free time, one-on-one time with parents, etc.
If the child’s negative behavior also has sensory-related issues, I ask the parents to construct a “special box” containing specific sensory toys (e.g. squishy balls, silly putty or pipe-cleaners). When the child plays in this box, it functions as a behavioral reward while giving them the input they need.
If a child engages in negative behavior, a token will simply be removed from his or her chart. While using this method, be sure not to talk about it or engage in an argument – just simply take off the token! If your child has a history of manipulating the situation, as many children do , the parent will often fall into the cycle of yelling back or negotiating. But if you take off a token, there is no talking about it. Simply continue to reward any positive behaviors immediately following the desired behavior.