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How To Reinforce Good Behavior In Children

Apr 12, 2008
Children will repeat a behaviour if it gives them something that they want. A few years ago I tried to bribe my nine year old son to stop biting his nails. I told him that if he stopped biting his nails for a month I would buy him an expensive toy. He immediately
stopped biting his nails for a whole month. I couldn't believe it because this had been an ongoing battle for many years. But the thought of getting a new toy was all it needed to motivate my son to change this habit.

The sad thing for me was as soon as I bought my son the toy he bit all his nails straight back again! I was absolutely devastated however didn't have the knowledge I now have to know how to handle the situation. I think I just growled at him. What I should have done was made it clear to him right from the beginning that he would have to keep his nails looking good in order to keep the toy. Next time I would make my expectations very clear at the beginning, that he would have to keep his nails long in order to keep the toy.

As parents we need to figure out what behaviour we want to encourage and then figure out how we can encourage it. Then just go ahead and do it. It really is easier than you think. My Mum and Dad often come to stay with our family and my Dad is always giving my children little bits of money as incentives to do the right thing. He walks around the house trying to catch each one of kids doing the right thing and then he pounces on them with the money, letting them know that their behaviour was outstanding. The kids really love it when their "Poppy" does that for them. It makes them feel special.

Even animals will repeat behaviour for a good consequence such as a treat. A guy I clean for has a puppy and she always used to bark whenever I did the vacuuming. That is until I started carrying treats in my pocket for her. Whenever I saw her sitting quietly while the vacuum was on I would reward her with a doggy treat. Now I can vacuum the whole house without the dog barking. The dog is happy because she gets her treats and I am happy because I get to vacuum in peace.

So, figure out what behavior you wish to encourage in your child and set about catching them doing it right today. Good luck.
About the Author
Kim Patrick is a single mother with four children, living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is author of the book, "Get Your Child To Behave In 30 Days Or Less". Her web site is:
http://www.parentwithpassion.com
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