The Right Way To Use Positive Reinforcement To Improve Behavior

positive reinforcement techniques

Positive affirmations and reinforcement can be highly effective in encouraging your kid’s behavior. Think about how you feel when your boss gives you a pat on the back, or your husband praises your cooking. Our kids are the same, it feels good to have the good pointed out. But if you want to get the most out of using praise and positive reinforcement, you have got to get your technique down pat. I’m here to help. You can check out here more information on why positive reinforcement works better than negative consequences.

How To Give Positive Reinforcement Effectively

It is a whole lot more than a random “good job buddy!” in passing, there’s a way to do it right.
1.   Stop what you are doing and give full undivided attention to your child.
2.  Describe what you see and how it makes you feel. “I see a clean room and laundry put away, that makes me feel so happy!”
3.  Make a physical connection, too, This could be a high five, or a hug, a pat on the shoulder, etc.

The positive behavior should always be acknowledged in two ways: verbally and physically. It helps to portray your sincerity and will make your child feel proud, and like she matters. This will also help strengthen your relationship with your child.

When To Give Positive Reinforcement & Affirmation

Don’t wait until your child has been doing something for a while before you take the time to notice it. This opens up more opportunity for nonpreferred behavior.
1.  Acknowledge the behavior within the first few seconds of your child doing the right thing. Don’t give them an opportunity to act up before you have had the chance to notice.
2.  Immediately after an inappropriate behavior, when your child begins doing what is expected again.
3.  All the time. Lay it on thick, literally 50 times a day thick. If he’s cranky that day, cake it on some more. You can always find a positive within the negative – find that positive and point it out.

What To Give Positive Affirmations About

Don’t just praise them for the really good things, those things that rarely or sporadically happen. Your child shoudl receive praise for all the good things they do.

  1. Make a list of five things your child already does well every day and plan ahead to notice them. This could be brushing her teeth, eating all her food, playing with her brother, etc. These five things should be things she is already good at . “Thank you so much for putting your plate in the sink, it’s so great to have your help.”
  2. Take time each day to point out the good qualities in her personality and how you admire them. “You are so artistic. I really love looking at your drawings and your creative way of mixing colours”
  3. Give praise to your child before they even start doing something. If you see your child walking towards the bathroom, say “Oh perfect you’re going to brush your teeth! I love that I don’t even have to ask”. Maybe that wasn’t why they were heading to the bathroom – but they’re probably going to brush their teeth now and you didn’t have to “tell” them what to do.

Make A Weekly Positive Reinforcement Plan

Get a copy of the printable positive reinforcement here. You can save to your device and print as needed. Each week sit and look at your plan and do the following:

  1. On the first week, you started with five things your child already did every day. You spent the whole week reinforcing these behaviors.  Now each week remove one of these things from the list and replace it with something your child needs to work on more. Plan what the behavior is, and how you will use reinforcement when you see your child doing what’s expected.
  2. Continue to adjust your plan weekly, as needed
  3. Keep the list somewhere you will see it regularly (like the fridge or on your dresser) so it acts as a reminder for you to keep using positive reinforcement consistently.
  4. Each day review and check off the things you took the time to notice.

Important: This list is not for your child’s behavior – it is to hold you accountable for noticing their behavior and giving them positive reinforcement.

Over time you can add increasingly challenging behaviors to the list that you want to work on. It’s important to start week one with five things they already do well everyday so you can help build their confidence and make them feel successful.

How to use positive reinforcement to improve behavior in less than a week


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