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How to Positively Reinforce Your Child

How to Positively Reinforce Your Child

It can be difficult to discipline children when they misbehave in school. They may push back against authority and ask the ever curious “why?” Why should I have to sit in class? Why should I listen to my teachers? Why should I study for this test? We could explain to them the stepping stones one takes from elementary school to high school and beyond, though it may be too abstract for them to comprehend. We could discipline them more forcefully with punishment and rules, though it may hamper their spirits. Or we could look at things from a different perspective and help our children (or students) build up a healthy understanding of short term and long-term gratification by using positive reinforcement.

What is Positive Reinforcement?

We may not recall all the concepts from our freshman psych class, but perhaps this one will stick. Positive reinforcement is defined as “the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future.” In other words, it means reinforcing a positive action, say getting a good grade, with a rewarding stimulus, like receiving a new backpack. When practiced correctly, positive enforcement allows a child to learn the value of working toward a goal while fulfilling achieving a task.

How to Practice Positive Reinforcement with your Children:

Not every goal should be reinforced with a material reward. If you indulged in a brownie every time you sent an email you’d have a serious problem on your hands. Instead take stock of what your child struggles with. Is it science tests? Completing weekend homework? Identify where your child needs help the most, so you don’t break the bank and they don’t expect a new pack of colored pencils with each spelling test.

Secondly, find what it is you child loves about school. Is it the fresh notebooks? Is It highlighting notes with seven different neon colors? Nobody knows your child like you do and you’d be at a loss if you didn’t use this knowledge to help them get a leg up on their studies. Some children love a fresh loose-leaf binder to decorate with stickers, others get ecstatic for a new backpack. Find what your child loves and use that to spur a new interest in school and studies.

The last step of the process is how you approach the situation. Explain to your child where they could use improvement in school, whether it be academic or behavioral. Give them the tools to succeed, like strategies for better note-taking, or getting in touch with a teacher to change seating arrangements. And be sure continue encouraging and cheering your child on, but do so with the added promise of their own pack of new markers or freshly minted pencil case to boost their spirits when they bring home a shining report card!   


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