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Use Positive Reinforcement

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Everybody wants approval for who he is and for what he does. And, everybody wants to please, especially children, and especially your child who wants to please you. Can that really be? Then why do children misbehave? We'll tackle that big question later but until then, take it from me and the experts, kids just wanna be good.

How can you “let” your kids be good, increase positive behavior, and decrease and prevent misbehavior quickly and painlessly? Here's a start: by accentuating the positive. (Remember that old song by Harold Arlan and Johnny Mercer? “You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between.”) One terrific way to accentuate behavior you like to see (and take the emphasis off negative behavior) is by using positive reinforcement.

It Works Like This

Positive reinforcement is a simple, reality-based technique that can help turn your child's behavior around—often very quickly. Here's the recipe:

  1. Your child wants your approval very badly.

  2. You notice and comment on specific positive behavior and provide natural and logical rewards.

  3. Your child feels noticed, validated, and approved of, the good behavior increases, and misbehavior is prevented or decreases.

  4. Your child also begins to recognize the value of his own positive qualities and actions.

Positive reinforcement is at play every time your child brings home his report card, or every time you get a bonus at work. But positive reinforcement works best when it isn't a once-in-a-while thing; the more it happens, the more effective it is. That means daily.

For instance, comment when your child for once does something without being told. Focus on positive behavior (“John, I noticed you remembered to take your clothes off the floor. Now the puppy won't be able to chew them.”). Don't focus on the negative (“You hung up your jacket, for once!”), and don't link it to a judgment on the child's personality (“What a good child you are for hanging up your jacket!”).

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