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2 Steps That Will Reinforce Good Behavior in Your Child

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I recently taught my son how to clean a toilet. It’s not a fun process, especially with a kid who doesn’t like things that are “icky.” I know how important positive reinforcement for kids is, so I had to force myself to focus on what he was doing right and give encouragement. You can imagine the words I said as we leaned over the toilet together.

Whether it’s teaching a skill or good behavior, if we don’t aim for the target of positive reinforcement, we’ll probably miss the board altogether and lose a valuable opportunity not only to teach our kids but also to build a stronger relationship with them. The good news is that getting better at this essential parenting skill can be done in 2 steps.

Step 1: Get in the habit of noticing the good.

I’m great at seeing what’s wrong with a situation. Seeing what’s right doesn’t come as naturally for me. I have to be very intentional about it. Just like drinking more water or starting the day with exercise or time in prayer, if you set a goal to notice good behavior, you’re more likely to do it. Without this step, you won’t build consistency, so noticing is key!

Pick a number of positive things you’re looking for and put that number of rubber bands around your wrist. Every time you offer positive reinforcement, take off a rubber band. Aim to have the bands all off by the end of the day. You might realize your kids do a lot more good things than you thought!

OK, now that you’re noticing the good, here’s the right format for positive reinforcement for kids.

Step 2: Fill in these blanks.

_________, you ________ so ___________. That was _________.

In the first blank, insert your child’s name. Addressing your child by name makes the message specific to the kid and gets his or her attention.

In the second blank, say what your child did.

In the third blank, explain what good thing the action caused.

In the last blank, use an adjective or phrase that encourages.

Here are a couple of examples:

“Nathan, you rinsed out the sink so it would be clean when your sister was ready to brush her teeth. That was so thoughtful.”

“Alyssa, you put your shoes on the first time you were told so we could get to school on time. That was really helpful of you.”

I’m sure you noticed your kids don’t have to do anything different. Positive reinforcement for kids is all about you, Mom. It’s about noticing and acknowledging. We all like to be recognized for our efforts, so use these two steps with your kids and watch their good behavior multiply!

What else do you do to reinforce good behavior and choices?


What nice thing has someone done for you lately?

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