Rewarding and Reinforcing Good Behaviour

4 Minutes to Read -

Rewarding and Reinforcing good behaviour internal article imageI remember when my daughter’s terrible twos started; I swear it was on her first birthday!

It was tantrum after tantrum. It was horrible and it was then that I decided I am not having any of this! If it could be this bad at one, what on earth was she going to be like at sixteen?? I had to gain control. At such a young age, it could be difficult for children to understand certain things we say but there is still a lot that we can do.

At any age, praise works. Wherever and whenever you can, praise your child. I became very conscious of it and started praising the smallest of good behaviour and I’m pretty sure my husband thought I had lost the plot. Did I care? No. It was working so I carried on! I mean, we all know what it’s like, right? Please tell me you do, when you allow your child to have their tantrum and they are literally screaming the place down, your blood is boiling to the point where you feel you may have to leave the house!? I bet you know the feeling!  If over doing the praise was reducing the chances of a tantrum then I was always going to carry on.

Whenever my daughter finished her food, I’d say, “Well done! You ate all your food. You are going to grow up to be a very strong girl!” There were times when she didn’t eat all her food and I couldn’t tell her that but still wanted to praise her because she hadn’t thrown it all over the floor. (Bet you know what that’s like too!). Instead, I calmly said, “Have you had enough? You did well eating up your broccoli.” We have to find goodness in everything they do so that the good behaviour is rewarded. Hopefully, our child learnt that the good behaviour is worth doing as it is rewarded, the rewards reinforce the good behaviour which means, that fingers crossed, they continue behaving.

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Praise doesn’t have to be complicated.  Sometimes a simple Hi 5 is good enough.

It’s all well and good to praise our children at home but it is even more important to do it when they are in the company of other people. I know I am guilty of saying things about my children to other people that embarrass them. As much as us mums need to vent, it’s not always a good thing to do in front of the children. The more they hear you praising them and talking about how well they behaved when you had to queue up at the bank, and how patient they were, the more likely they are to actually queue up well and not nag you about how long it is going to take! Even if it is really hard to find something good to say, (and I have been there, trust me), dig deep, you will find something. I’m not asking you to boast by saying, ‘My daughter did this and that and then she did this’, etc.…  That’s not what it’s about. One or two sentences so your child hears you. That’s it. It will make them very happy.

If we flip this on its head for a second, I want to ask you, what do you think happens if you do the opposite? What happens if you say negative things about your child in front of others? How do you think it will make them feel? My daughter has come to me in tears and said, “Mum, I know I did something naughty but why do you have to tell everyone?” I felt horrid, without even realising I had really hurt her feelings and she started to lose trust in me and would worry about what I was saying to others about her to the point where she would ask me not to tell anyone. Now, it’s all positive comments and praise and I have seen a difference in her. As a consequence, she does more than expected and I continue to praise her and tell her how proud I am of her, (she is 10 now!)

Sometimes a simple praise is fine but when we want that good behaviour to continue, there are other things we can do. I have used reward charts with my children from a very young age to the point where they have decided to start rewarding us! There are lots of different reward charts available; you just need to find the one that suits the needs of your children and family. So how do they work?

Often, all you have to do is reward each good behaviour/ action with a star or a smiley face. Depending on your child, you can set a target for your child to reach before they earn a treat. I like to ask my children what they want as a reward and that could range from some chocolate to a day out! It all depends what you think is appropriate, what your child is interested in and what you can afford! The reward doesn’t have to cost you the earth! This could be food, an activity they enjoy, doing a family task together or going out somewhere nice. In the past, my daughter has requested a day out with just mummy, as I remember, we had a lovely day!

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What I really like about reward charts is that they can really encourage children to do some chores around the house. I’ve had my lot vacuuming, making their beds, doing the laundry and even making dinner! They get so competitive and really work hard to gain more rewards than each other.

This is not to say that you will have perfect children, I’m so sorry to say. My children are far from perfect and some days I feel like pulling out my hair, I mean, I can never, ever, send them both to the bathroom at the same time to brush their teeth. They literally sound like they are trying to kill each other in there so now, I have to send them one at a time, so you see, I have things I still need to work on too and there is no rest for us mummies! I think  children think we have nothing better to do and must give us unnecessary, time-wasting battles to end! So please, do continue with your time-out and naughty steps. They still need to be disciplined. Use what works for you but remember that we do need to tell them how well they do and reward that good behaviour in the same way that we, as adults need to be recognised and acknowledged for our hard work.

My last piece of advice with reward charts would be that we, as the parents, must remember to actually use them. I know that may sound silly, but I know that I was really good at the beginning but then became extremely lax and kept forgetting to stick up a star each time the children deserved one. The children would remind me and that’s not good because they then feel that the chart has no value. Make sure you acknowledge the number of stars they have and that they are doing well. Count down how many more stars they need to get their treat. Just don’t forget you have it!

I would love to know what you do to reward your children for their good behaviour and how you encourage them to continue. Have you used rewards charts? What has been your experience?

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