We hear the term positive reinforcement all over these days. What is positive reinforcement? Behaviorally speaking, reinforcement is something in the individual’s world or environment that is increasing a certain behavior, positive refers to the idea something is being added or supplied to the individual.
Positive reinforcement can be very helpful when trying to adjust behaviors. Since all behaviors serve a function, if there is a focus on adding something to increase the event of more appropriate behaviors, often we can manipulate and increase the frequency of more appropriate/desirable behaviors.
For example: your child is refusing to listen or follow directions. You ask them to clean up after themselves, eat their dinner, do their homework, and you are greeted with opposition, yelling etc. Instead of a calm afternoon, you are engaging in a number of arguments that create stress and negativity in your house.
So what do you do? This is where positive reinforcement can be a great starting point. Some people feel this is bribing or coaxing their children to do something they have to do in life. The reality is, positive reinforcement is everywhere. As adults, we get positive reinforcement for going to work in the form on a paycheck. We reward ourselves with dinners out, vacations, outings with friends, favorite books, or whatever you spend money on.
It is not unrealistic that children need a push to help them stay on task. In our worlds today there is such focus on what children are doing wrong, they are bombarded with competition and needing to be good at everything. They may go home feeling defeated, and then are met with more arguments and demands of what they need to do. This cycles anxiety or negative thoughts and you are met with negative behaviors.
So as a start, try to make a shift in your home. Instead of demanding what should be done, try to start with a positive statement. “You are doing a great job sitting nicely, but I need you to start your homework.” “I love the way you put your bag down, but can you please hang it on the hook.” See if you notice a decrease in some power struggles, or a smoother transition into activities.
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