Two weeks ago, we talked about effective discipline not being about punishment, rather as simply a way to guide and manage a child’s behaviour. Today, I’d like to share with you the second secret of highly effective discipline: Give Specific Positive Reinforcement and not comparison. Sometimes the sole motivation of giving positive reinforcement is to encourage the child to be of good behaviour at all times according to his/her capabilities and excel.
Tip 2: Give Specific Positive Reinforcement
You’ve probably heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: positive reinforcement is key. It can come in many flavours: smiling, sharing a high five and giving effective praise.
But you shouldn’t just spout insincere praise without thought. In the classroom, a teacher once told me, “I’ve noticed that effective praise is selective, specific, encouraging and positive. It avoids comparisons and competition. It compares a child’s progress with his/her past performance rather than with other children and it’s delivered in a caring, natural tone of voice. Believe me, children know when you’re just faking it.”
I try to avoid using blanket phrases like “good job,” or “good girl/boy” and be specific about the action or observed good behaviour. The most effective of all techniques though is to catch children being good or in an act of kindness. The reward and acknowledgement will be more genuine than if your child runs up to you and exclaims he cleaned his room or shared his biscuits with his baby sister.
When an older child tied the shoes of a younger child at home, I was all over it. I told him what he did was caring and kind. Then I drew attention to the facial expression of his sister he helped; she was smiling. When I asked her how she felt she replied, “good.”
At home this translates to making sure we stay away from comparison between siblings, calling names or using labels, and copping out using standby phrases like “good job”.
Positive reinforcement can also be tangible, if you give small rewards like stickers or prizes but perhaps best used sparingly, and for a short amount of time.
To be continued.