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I Stopped Criticizing My Kids’ Bad Behavior — and They’re More Well-Behaved Because of It

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There are so many things we know we should do with our kids but for some unexplainable reason, we end up not doing them. This summer I decided to make a conscious effort to try noticing the good things my kids were doing instead of pointing out the bad. I’ve always been a fan of positive reinforcement, a fancy psychological term that basically means you should reward desired behaviors so the person will keep repeating it. However, if you ask my children, they’ll probably say I call them out whenever they’re misbehaving instead of praising them when they’re getting along or following our family rules.

After two months of making a conscious effort at positive reinforcement , all I can say is that it really does work. Heartfelt words and a simple smile work wonders. Now my kids seem to compete against each other to do more great things and make me happy. It’s quite funny, too. They actually want to help me and feel proud when I call them out in front of friends and family.

Want to try this yourself and see if it works for you? Here are some pointers that will help:

1. Be clear on your expectations.

When you send a clear message on what you consider good and appropriate behavior, it’s easier for your child to know what to do. And yes, you should lay out what your family’s core values are (such as honesty or respect) and can even ask for your children to suggest what should be respected by every member of the family.

2. Praise your child in front of others.

Kids seem to believe the comments we make to others about them, more than the comments we make directly to them (especially if they’re eavesdropping), so make an effort to say how happy you are about what they did when you’re on the phone or at a family event.

3. Pay attention to details.

Perhaps your kids played together instead of squabbling. Or your child helped set the table without you asking. Notice those small things that can make a huge difference in your day-to-day lives.

4. Encourage collaboration.

If your kid has a hard time remembering rules, focus on showing him or her other ways he or she can do good. Prepare dinner with their help, enlist your child to water the plants or have siblings do a craft together. Then express how happy you are with these examples of teamwork.

5. Make a big deal out of small changes.

When our kids are really young, we tend to celebrate every milestone and achievement, but as they grow, we stop doing it. This is probably because we don’t want to overdo it or we have already come to expect good things out of them. Just keep in mind that regardless of your child’s age, he or she still needs your reassurance and when they make an effort, you should make a big deal out of it. If he or she feels that nobody notices how hard he or she is trying, they’re not going to continue to try.

6. Keep tabs on their accomplishments.

You can make your own chart, use a whiteboard or even an app on your smartphone to keep track of all the great things your child has done each day. For some kids, just being able to see smiley faces, stars, or checks lined up next to their names creates a sense of accomplishment. And for some of us, who suffer from bad memory due to never-ending to-do lists, it’s a great reminder of those good moments.

7. Remember that rewards don’t have to be things.

Actually, I prefer to give rewards in the form of time together, cuddles, and smiles. Then I point out how much more fun and how nice it is to have a happy mom and just enjoy our family, instead of being upset and acting like a law enforcer all the time. Of course I do cave in to requests for frozen yogurt or a movie night when things have been going so well.  After all, there’s nothing better than spending happy moments with those you love the most.

Have you ever tried positive reinforcement? Let me know your thoughts below.

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Article Posted 5 years Ago
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