How many times have you found yourself saying “No!” or “Stop that!” – and it doesn’t seem to make any difference in your child’s behavior?
Long-standing research suggests that children will behave well when their actions are reinforced with positive attention. In fact, negative reactions may even cause the unwanted conduct to increase! Instead, parents can use the following methods and simple “scripts” to easily turn negative phrases into positive statements that reinforce desired behavior:
- Maximize all opportunities to express delight. Delight is a positive expression and can be used to entice and reinforce the behavior you want to see in your child. Acknowledge your child’s actions with joy in your voice and on your face in addition to providing verbal reinforcement.
- Redirect behavior instead of correcting. When you see your child doing something you don’t want him to do, use it as an opportunity to guide him in a new direction. For example, if your child draws on a wall, remind her that the wall is not a place for artwork, but she can draw an even bigger picture on the driveway using chalk.
- Develop a list of go-to positive scripts. Like anything, new behavior requires practice – even for parents! Here is a list of positive phrases you can use on a regular basis.
|Negative Phrase||Positive Phrase|
|“Don’t run!”||“Let’s walk here so we stay safe!”|
|“Stop hitting your sister!”||“Use a soft touch.”|
|“Don’t touch that!”||“Hands in your pockets, please!”|
|“Stop grabbing all of the books!”||“Remember, you can choose three books.”|
|“Stop being sassy!”||“I love it when you use your polite words.”|
|“You need to cooperate!”||“You can do it – I know you can!”|
|“Pick up your toys!”||“Let’s work like a team!”|
Young children need and want your attention, and they will seek it in whatever way works! You can shape your child’s behavior by intentionally using these positive reinforcement techniques to encourage desired behavior and also forge deeper relationships with your child.