Preventing behavior problems with positive behavior management
Smarter Parenting is built on the Teaching-family Model, which focuses on positive behavior management. Positive behavior management is more effective long-term than punishment and works to build a child’s confidence. Punishment is the use of negative techniques such as criticism, name calling, sarcasm, physical punishment, and ignoring or isolating a child for a long period of time. Punishment doesn’t work because it may cause your child to seek retaliation against you, it hurts your relationship with your child, your child learns to punish others when they don’t like something, and children often become “immune” to the punishment so you have to increase punishment for it to continue working. If you find yourself using punishment, you are not alone. The use of punishment is commonplace and often a instinctive reaction in the moment.
However, appropriate teaching provides a positive and effective approach to problem behavior. It uses guidance rather than control. Children are more likely to learn when they are treated with affection and pleasantness than when threatened with anger and physical punishment. Teaching provides a positive framework for necessary learning to take place. If you begin to implement positive behavior management strategies you will turn away from punishment and become a coach and mentor for your child.
One of the simplest ways to create more positive interactions with your child is by increasing how much you praise them. Smarter Parenting suggests that you praise your child at least 4 times for every 1 time that you correct or give a consequence to your child. There are two reasons for this. First, people are more motivated to behave better when they receive positive comments than when they receive criticism. Research also shows that the emotional response that comes from negative comments leaves a longer lasting imprint than positive comments do. You want your child to have more opportunities to remember the positive things you say to them. Praise does need to consist of certain elements to shape behavior. The skill of Effective Praise found on Smarter Parenting’s website includes steps to follow to make your praise most effective for your child.
When using positive behavior management it is best to look at your role as a coach for your child. Focusing on teaching and guiding your child is the best way to remain positive with them. When children misbehave it can be easy to view their behavior as intentional and take offense. But if you instead view the behavior as a skill your child has not learned yet or that they don’t have the resources to make a positive decision then it is easier to remain calm and interact with your child as a coach would.
Preventive Teaching (preparing a child before a troublesome situation) and Correcting Behaviors (teaching a child after a negative behavior) are both Smarter Parenting skills that involve telling your children the right way to behave, preparing your child for success in the future. Rather than focusing on what your child has done wrong, you are explaining to your child how they should behave instead. Both of these skills also include role-playing, which is essential for full implementation of a new behavior. Acting out problem situations and the right way to behave will make your child more likely to use that positive behavior when it is needed, preventing behavior problems before they occur.
Creating behavior charts for kids is a positive tool to help when they are learning a new skill. Behavior charts track when your child uses the positive behavior, which takes the focus off of recognizing their negative behavior and provides motivation for your child as they work towards reaching a goal. Behavior charts can be a simple table that tracks each time a behavior is used, or a marble jar that reaches a certain height, or a even a written contract, which is often used with older children. The type of behavior tracker is not important, as long as you remain consistent in recognizing and tracking your child’s behavior, and your child is excited to earn the reward at the end.
As you being to implement a behavior plan that includes positive behavior management techniques, remember that change takes time, for both you and your child. Avoid going back to old habits by keeping a journal of the improvements you see in your child. Over time, the new parenting tools will replace past ineffective strategies. And for those times when you don’t behave appropriately, remember to apologize to your child. It is good to model for your child how to acknowledge and correct past mistakes. It will build your relationship with your child and create a more positive environment in your home.
Behavior charts available on Smarter Parenting
*Additional styles of Warm Fuzzies, Marble Jar, and Reward Jar labels can be found on the Effective Praise lesson page.