Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 12:14 pm
Discipline is a parenting dynamic that raises many differing thoughts and opinions
While each family is free to utilise whatever methods work for them, there are some methods that have been proven to be more effective than others.
“Traditional” discipline usually refers to the practice of training children to obey rules, and if this is not followed, using punishment to correct the disobedience.
Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, is the encouragement of behaviour using rewards and motivation. And while rewarding a disobedient may seem like a complete paradox, positive reinforcement has been proven to be one of the most effective behaviour modification techniques.
Rewarding good behaviour
As parents, we instinctively reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour, which usually works. However, rewards work better than punishment in changing behaviour, because of the positive emotions which are associated with them.
You can enhance this method by creating a “token system” in your home:
• Your child getting points/stars which can be exchanged for a bigger reward once a certain number is reached
• This is easy to implement and can involve almost anything (e.g. getting a point for helping set the table)
• Immediate gratification – points are received on the spot!
• Smaller, regular rewards work much better than bigger ones which take longer
• They are also more motivating
• Encourage your child to take part by explaining what it is about and getting them to set daily goals for themselves
To make this work, remember:
• The rewards must be realistic and achievable for your child
• To follow through with what you say you will do as well
• You cannot take away rewards which have been earned – this can be quite discouraging
• To reward good habits (e.g. doing things without being told), not just the good outcome
• There is a big difference between bribing and rewarding good behaviour!
This method of promoting good behaviour is effective because it focuses on what your child is doing right, rather than on what they are not doing or on what they are doing wrong
Why positive reinforcement matters
This method of promoting good behaviour is effective because it focuses on what your child is doing right, rather than on what they are not doing or on what they are doing wrong.
This leads to a higher chance of the positive behaviour being repeated. Remember, not all positive reinforcement involves giving tangible rewards – a lot of it can be encouragement and acknowledgement.
You can do this by:
• Giving your child a high five or a thumbs up when they do something good
• Smiles and physical affection (hugs and kisses)
• Letting them know when they have done something good
• Talking to another adult about their good behaviour while they’re in the room
• Avoid focusing on the negative (e.g. you still haven’t tidied up) or linking it to the child’s personality (e.g. you’re such a good child because you tidied up)
Which behaviours should you be positively reinforcing?
• Sharing with others
• Being kind and gentle to siblings and peers
• Completing tasks without a fuss (e.g. brushing teeth)
• Effort put into doing something hard
• Remembering their manners
• Practicing something new
Depending on the age of your child/children, have a look into specific positive reinforcement techniques that suit your parenting style and your family.