How to Encourage Discipline in Children: Principle #8

We have previously noted the fact that caregivers of children often find themselves saying “no” more than any other word in disciplining small children. It can sometimes feel so constant that there is little room for anything else. That is why we need to talk about Principle #8, which is to make sure that good behavior is noticed and acknowledged.

Too much saying “no”? Don’t forget to acknowledge a child’s good behavior.

Mother and daughter happy conversation
Children need to know that their efforts to behave, cooperate and show caring behavior are appreciated.

Children who are constantly told “no” may soon stop trying to be involved in positive activities and interactions. Children need to know that their efforts to behave, cooperate and show caring behavior are appreciated. Noticing positive behavior and acknowledging this behavior in an encouraging way—especially when it follows a correction of negative behavior—can be quite valuable for bolstering your child’s self-esteem and increasing future positive behavior.

The value of positive reinforcement

Another common approach is to use positive reinforcement.  Simply, this is a way to provide a child with an incentive to stop negative behavior and to increase positive behavior. It involves introducing rewards for good behavior. Some people use stars on a chart to mark instances that earn rewards. Others may use a piggy bank with monetary rewards.  

In all cases, the child receives the award right away. Then, over time, rewards build and can be spent for a fun trip, special time with the caregiver, or a small and appropriate gift. 

The acknowledgement of good behavior accompanied by the immediacy of the reward can break a cycle of undesired behavior. It can turn a situation that seems impossible into an opportunity for change. In order to be effective, the reward needs to be immediate, consistent and relevant to the needs and wants of the child.

It is best to work on only one behavior at a time so the child will not be confused by which behavior is being rewarded. In giving rewards, we are not attempting to bribe or be over-indulgent.  Rather, we are attempting to turn a negative situation into a positive one in a way that the child can relate in a tangible way. 

Acknowledging positive behavior helps create balance

It is important that we take time to acknowledge the good behaviors in our children. It is the other side of creating boundaries. We want to give new permissions and incentives for children to engage in positive behaviors and see the impact of those positive behaviors on those around them. 

These acknowledgements should create good balance in our relationships with the children in our care. They are a hedge against thoughts that can become negative, which can create a belief system in the child that he/she will never be good enough to please his/her parents and caregivers. 

Even though it takes a bit more effort (and sometimes some creativity), it is well worth the effort for caregivers to practice principle #8 often with your child . 

Gerry Vassar,  President/CEO, LakesideEducational Network

Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 407-408.






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