Before I became a mum I didn’t really understand what positive reinforcement was. I did know by looking at my friends who already had children that ideas of discipline had changed quite a bit since I was a child. I took my husband’s lead on this, being a psychologist, so in our house reinforcing good attitude and behaviours is the main way we try to avoid general naughtiness and misbehaviour. And it works, well most of the time.
when to use positive reinforcement
The best time to use positive reinforcement is right at the time of the behaviour. The longer the time between the behaviour and the reinforcement the weaker the connection your child will make. This means they are less likely to show more of the good behaviour in the future.
how do I use positive reinforcement?
- Share your own feelings with your toddler
When your toddler does something you like, smiling at him lets him know you’re pleased with what he did. Praising your toddler for good actions is really important, but focus your praise on your own feelings rather than judging his actions. For example when my three year old son shares his toys with his two year old sister, I say something to him like ‘I saw how you let your sister play with your favourite cars, I am very proud of you’.
- Be specific with praise
Being specific with your praise lets your toddler build a strong connection between the behaviour and the praise. Tell him exactly what you liked about his words, actions or behaviour. This is really important for positive reinforcement.
- Give more focus to the right things
Toddlers and children can do right and wrong things at the same time. When it’s time to put the toys away in our house my toddler will only put the cars he has played with away and leave everything else. I praise him for putting the cars away and ask him to help me with the rest of the toys.
- Encourage your toddler when he has improved
Reminding your toddler of their past behaviour while praising their present good behaviour encourages your toddler to keep heading in the right direction. But of course avoid making comparisons between children.
- Keep improving their behaviour by setting goals
By setting goals you might be able to see a desired behaviour sooner. For example when dressing my three year old I say something like ‘I think soon you won’t need mummy to help you put your top on. I would feel very happy if you could try to do this on your own’.
This blog post was brought to you and your baby with love by Julia and the Itchy Baby Co. team X