The most important aspect of positive behavior reinforcement, is to stop reinforcing negative behaviour, and to start telling your child what positive behaviour they can or should do.
For example, when your child is demonstrating an undesirable or negative behavior, like standing on a table, hitting their sibling, shouting, or running inside, your first instinct is to tell the child ‘No! ‘Don’t do this!’ ‘Don’t do that!’ without actually telling the child what they should be doing or what the desired positive behaviour is.
What should you do in this situation?
We want to frame it in the positive, and think about what it is that you actually want the child to do.
So if your child were to be standing on the table, instead of saying ‘No. Don’t stand on the table’, you would want to say to the child ‘you can sit on a chair’, ‘you can do your colouring book on the table’, or ‘you can stand on the floor’. You can give a few positive options for the child, so they know there are other ways (desired behaviours) to do things, and take ownership of making the positive choice.
It takes a bit of time and a lot of practice, to get into this routine of telling a child what they can do. Think about it; when we spend the majority of the time telling the child what they cannot do and ‘no!’ and then we wonder why our toddler is parroting back to us ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘no’. It really makes you aware of how often you are reinforcing or acknowledging this negative behaviour, when you haven’t actually given the child the option of what you want the child to do. We can’t always assume the child knows better.
If your child is screaming, you could say ‘use your inside voice’ and model that quieter voice. If your child is running, you could say ‘we use our walking feet’ and show the child how to walk. If your child is hitting their sibling, you could say ‘we use our gentle hands’ and demonstrate the softer and slower movement.
The key is to be consistent.
Focus on what your child can do and not what they can’t, and soon it will be second nature.
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