How Do I Encourage a New, Desired Behavior?

 

 

One way to encourage good behavior is to use a reward system. Children who learn that bad behavior is not tolerated and that good behavior is rewarded are learning skills that will last them a lifetime. This works best in children older than 2 years of age. It can take up to 2 months to work. Being patient and keeping a diary of behavior can be helpful to parents.

Choose 1 to 2 behaviors you would like to change (for example, bedtime habits, tooth brushing or picking up toys). Choose a reward your child would enjoy. Examples of good rewards are an extra bedtime story, delaying bedtime by half an hour, a preferred snack or, for older children, earning points toward a special toy, a privilege or a small amount of money.

Explain the desired behavior and the reward to the child. For example, “If you get into your pajamas and brush your teeth before this TV show is over, you can stay up a half hour later.” Request the behavior only one time. If the child does what you ask, give the reward. You can help the child if necessary but don’t get too involved. Because any attention from parents, even negative attention, is so rewarding to children, they may prefer to have parental attention instead of a reward at first. Transition statements, such as, “In 5 minutes, play time will be over,” are helpful when you are teaching your child new behaviors.

This system helps you avoid power struggles with your child. However, your child is not punished if he or she chooses not to behave as you ask; he or she simply does not get the reward.