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Hilber Psychological Services

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Parenting 101: Positive Reinforcement, Part 1

Parenting can be challenging, overwhelming, and exhausting. If you are a parent who feels that there are more bad days than good days with your child, you are not alone. Many parents struggle trying to find the balance of parenting, which is not easy. Previous blog entries "Parenting 101: Discipline, Part 1 and Parenting 101: Discipline, Part 2" explored the part of parenting about controlling behavior and setting boundaries. In this article, we will discuss focusing on the positive aspects of your child and how that can decrease unwanted behaviors at home. Let’s start with the basics. What is positive reinforcement? How does it work? Positive reinforcement is a behavioral modification tool that looks to highlight positive aspects in children. Children can make two choices: a poor choice, such as pushing a sibling, or a good choice, such as sharing with a sibling. When a child makes a poor choice, there is a consequence that is associated with that behavior, such as a time-out. Most parents understand this concept all too well. However, what some parents tend to forget is to highlight positive choices children make. Positive reinforcement is when a parent acknowledges and praises a child for good behavior. When positive reinforcement is used, the child is more likely to engage in that positive behavior again in the future. As such, the goal of positive reinforcement is to increase your child’s positive behaviors while decreasing your child’s unwanted behaviors.

What does positive reinforcement look like? It can be a statement, a gesture, or a physical reward. When engaging in positive reinforcement with your child, it is important to make a clear and explicit statement to the child that links the praise with the behavior. This allows the child to connect the specific behavior with the positive reinforcement.

Below are some examples of what positive reinforcement may look like with a child.

  • Statement:
    • Sam: “Here Tommy, you can have a turn playing with the race car now.”
    • Parent: “Wow, Sam, thank you so much for sharing with Tommy. That was so kind of you.”
  • Gesture:
    • Sam: “Here Tommy, you can have a turn playing with the race car now.”
    • Parent: “Thank you for sharing your race car with Tommy.” Parent makes this statement as the parent hugs the child.
  • Physical reward:
    • Sam: “Here Tommy, you can have a turn playing with the race car now.”
    • Parent: “Wow, Sam, thank you so much for sharing with Tommy. That was so kind of you. As a reward for being so kind, you can play on the ipad for 10 minutes today.”

Adding positive reinforcement to your parenting style is easy and can decrease unwanted behaviors. Today we discussed a few simple ways to add some positivity to the relationship you have with your child. Next week, I will be discussing ways to implement a more specific reward system into the home.

For more ideas on positive behaviors, check out Dr. Hilber’s blog "Catching the 'Good'" as she explores tips for creating a positive home environment.

While implementing a new parenting style, there may still be some setbacks. Parenting can be difficult, as parents have their own stressors to deal with. If you are a parent and feel that you could use some extra support, therapy can be a great way to give yourself the care you may need. Feel free to Contact Us at Hilber Psychological Services to set up an appointment today. If you have any general questions, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services to address them.