If you have been following my column, you know that I am big on reinforcement. Positive yelling and happy dances are regular tools that I teach parents to use daily.
Yet, time and time again I am asked, “Doesn’t there need to be a consequence for negative behavior?” Parents seem stuck on making sure their kids are punished.
Let me clear this up once and for all: Punishment does not need to be part of a successful parenting equation.
You do not need to punish your child after he makes a mistake for him to learn it was a mistake. I teach parents in my private practice to never talk about their child’s problem behavior after the moment is over. There is no lasting behavior change that comes from these conversations.
Look at experience to see if this is true: How many times have you prompted your child to say “please” when asking for a snack? Yet, how often does he independently add in “please?” How many times have you explained that listening the first time you ask him to brush teeth makes bedtime much more fun? Yet, tonight, won’t you have the same fight you had last night?
Punishment or a negative consequence for challenging behavior does not lead to the changes you want. Your small one still does not know what to do differently next time. That is where change comes from!
Just highlight when he makes a good choice. Over and over again, point out the right choice, the good behavior, and the amazing actions. This will lead your child to make theses choices more and more.
Each time your son asks for a snack and says “please,” do a happy dance, and then give him the snack. When your daughter does brush her teeth easily, do some positive yelling about how amazing she is. This will bring out the behavior you want!
Let me give you an example: When you were a child, how did you learn that 2 + 2 = 4? Did your teacher tell you all the things it was not? “2 + 2 is not 2,” “2 + 2 is not 3,” “2 + 2 is not 5,” … and on and on. Or, did your teacher repeatedly say “2 + 2 is 4,” over, and over, and over again? Then when you repeated it back, you got a gold star. This is behavior teaching at its best.
This is the model for how to change all behavior. No need to point out all the ways your child is wrong. Just point out what he does well. He will then start doing more and more great things! Then, without you even noticing, the challenging moments decrease because you and your children are so focused on doing good things.
Dr. Marcie Beigel is an international speaker and trainer. She brings realistic ideas to real-life behavior that results in lasting changes for families, schools, businesses, and relationships. She is the best-selling author of “Love Your Classroom Again” and “Love Your Family Again.” She is the founder of Behavior and Beyond, a company dedicated to behavior change. Visit DrMar
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