www.herald-journal.com
Catch your child being good
Sept. 3, 2012
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by Jenni Sebora

It is so easy to forget to give our children words of appreciation and praise when they are engaging in positive behaviors. When they misbehave or don’t follow through with something, we don’t “forget” to let them know what they have done wrong.

Children, as well as adults, need words of affirmation, approval, and acceptance. If their misgivings and errors are the primary focus of acknowledgement, their self-worth may be demeaned.

Everyone needs rewards. We work to earn our paychecks, as well as other nontangible rewards, such as feelings of satisfaction.

Our children have the same needs. Rewards don’t have to be tangible and constant. They can be words of encouragement, a smile from their teacher, a high-five from their coach.

More schools are implementing positive behavior programs, which are basically what the words imply. Positive strategies are used to help children achieve meaningful outcomes, to help create a positive learning atmosphere. Different titles may be used for the programs, but the focus is similar, using positive strategies.

Behaviors serve purposes, including negative and positive behavior. Teaching a child an alternative to challenging behavior is key.

Children may act out, for example, because they are attempting to get attention, or they just may want to be left alone. Understanding the purpose of a behavior is important in trying to help teach them a replacement skill (e.g. asking for a break instead of yelling).

Many times, there are also things that can be done to help prevent certain challenging behaviors. Building on what already works, reducing the likelihood that the behavior will occur, and helping the child deal with or avoid altogether the behavior triggers are prevention strategies.

Offering choices, changing the length of a certain task, making the task more fun and engaging, and choosing rewards before the activity begins so the child is aware of what they can earn if they do the given task are some strategies. You want to get the momentum moving forward so it is not stuck in the negative.

How we as adults respond to a child’s behavior is vital. Redirecting a child that is engaging in a challenging behavior to use a more positive learned skill is important. Praising/rewarding the positive replacement behavior, stating what is expected, and cuing with more appropriate strategies are all ways we can effectively respond.

Using this type of approach can work if is used consistently. It is important to remember to focus on the positive for all children.

When challenging behaviors are displayed, helping children find alternative strategies to meet a certain need, and then responding to that newly learned positive strategy with praise/reinforcement, increases the success.

Don’t forget to “catch your child being good.” Then, let them know how much you appreciate it.


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