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Hilber Psychological Services

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Parenting 101: Positive Reinforcement, Part 2

Last week in “Parenting 101: Positive Reinforcement, Part 1,” I discussed the foundation of positive reinforcement and how to begin incorporating it into a child’s daily routine. This week, I will discuss specifically how to create a reward system and an example of what that might look like. It is not uncommon for parents, and even teachers, to create a positive reward system in the home that encourages and reinforces good behavior. The goal of a reward system is to increase a child’s positive behaviors while simultaneously decreasing a child’s negative behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at an example of a reward system and how to incorporate this system into a family’s daily routine.

Making a reward system can be easy and simple. The idea is to create a clear picture of desired behaviors with instant rewards for that behavior. The reward must be something the child wants. One example is implementing a chore chart. A parent merely needs to create a chart with chores listed for the child to complete. Every time a child completes a chore, a sticker will be added to the chart. As a parent, you can determine how many stickers a child would need before the child obtains a reward. It can be as simple as 5 stars equals 10 minutes on the ipad to 50 stars equals a trip to the movie theater. It is important to choose rewards that appeal to the child to encourage the child to work toward a desired reward. A chore chart is one example of what a reward system might look like. For more examples on positive reinforcement and rewards check out Dr. Hilber’s blog “Catching the ‘Good.’”

Just remember, it is important that when you first start out implementing a reward system that the child will be able to succeed quickly. If you make the reward system too challenging, children may feel that the rewards are unobtainable and the system will not stick. Once the child begins to earn rewards on a weekly basis, you can discuss adding more challenging items.

While having a reward system, such a reward chart, is one way to implement positive reinforcement in your child’s life, it is not the only way. I want to encourage parents to point out the positive moments in a child’s life. For younger children, this may be as simple as stating, “Wonderful job stacking those blocks - I’m so happy to see you put the blue block on top of the green block.” For older children, especially adolescents, acknowledging the good may look like complimenting a child for doing a specific chore (especially when not asked to do so) to thanking a child for being kind to a sibling. However you want to build positive interactions with your child, remember that it should be things that you truly appreciate. Do not try and force positive interactions - find something, even if it is small, that you value about your child.

Focusing on the positive aspects of a child allows the child to grow his or her sense of self. Often times, when children hear nothing but negative statements and frequently have consequences, children internalize those statements. As a result, as children get older, they may be at a higher risk for depression or anxiety-related disorders. If you feel your child could use extra support, therapy could be a wonderful option to build a child’s sense of self. As a parent or caretaker, if you feel stressed and overworked, therapy may be a good option to work on yourself. If any of those options sound like something you would be interested in, please contact us at Hilber Psychological Services to set up an appointment today. If you have any general questions, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services to address them.