If you’re a parent, then you’ve probably yelled at your child to not do something– to not punch their brother, to not dye their hair a certain color, or not eat cookies before dinner. How’s that working for you? My guess is not so good.
Whether you believe that your child always listens to you or not, you need to keep reading to learn the real truth. . As a parent, at some point, you’re going to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or sad, because your child is acting against your rules.
1) YELLING AT THEM TO NOT DO SOMETHING IS INEFFECTIVE.
Reinforcement is the most powerful tool to shape behaviors, not punishment. Using punishment to get your child to listen to you is a nation-wide misconception. Think about that dog, Skippy who is the perfect dog- he can pretend to play dead, not eat steak from a dinner plate left on a floor, and can walk beside the owner without a leash. Skippy receives treats when he does something well and does not receive treats when he does not do something well.
2) SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT REINFORCEMENT IS THE BEST WAY TO SHAPE BEHAVIOR.
Here’s a very simplified version-
Positive Reinforcement– You provide something of value to your child to increase desired behaviors
· Ex: Let your daughter have 15 min extra screen time (reinforcement) if she completes her homework by 6pm (behavior to increase)
· Ex: Giving verbal praise “You got this!” every time your child uses the toilet during toilet training
Negative Reinforcement- We use this when we try to get relief. You take something away which increases behaviors
· Ex: You take Tylenol to remove your headache
o Now when you get a headache, you’ll be more likely to take Tylenol because it works
· Ex: Buckling your seatbelt to stop the “beeping” noise.
3) IT IS MUCH EASIER TO MONITOR BEHAVIORS IF YOU HAVE DEFINED THEM.
· Saying “Be respectful” doesn’t let the child know what you mean
o We can all have a different idea of what it means to be respectful. Brainstorm with your child and define these terms in behavioral terms
o i.e.: Tell your child respectful means to not hit, cuss, or grab something from someone.
· Take turns while role-playing with your child.
4) FOCUS ON THE BEHAVIORS YOU WANT TO INCREASE
· You can probably spend all day generating things you would rather your child NOT do. Instead, come up a few behaviors you would want to see your child doing more regularly. This is much easier to track and more rewarding for your child.
· Rewarding good behavior is much more effective than punishing for bad behaviors.
Example with Jordan-
The next time you want your child to do something- i.e., play nice with his brother- tell him:
· 1) Jordan, if you play with your brother and keep your hands to yourself (no hitting or touching your brother) then you will get to choose what we have for dessert tonight.
· 2) Jordan, If you do hit your brother, then you will not earn dessert tonight.
Rather than focusing on the behaviors you want to decrease, define the behaviors you want to increase. Be creative in choosing rewards and make sure you pay attention if your child actually did the behavior you wanted. If they did, offer positive reinforcement! If they did not, tell them why and give them more opportunities to get reinforced.
This method is proven to work but will take a few times for your child to understand and accustom to the new parenting technique.