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  • Writer's pictureJessica O'Neil

How To Completely Change Your Child's Behavior

What is positive reinforcement and how does it work?

Positive reinforcement is an effective way to change or shape your child’s behavior by increasing their motivation to engage in certain tasks. Just like adults are rewarded with a paycheck for a job well done or a tax-break for donating to a charity, kids operate on the same system. If we reward the positive behaviors with a motivating word, prize, event, etc. the child is motivated to engage in that behavior again in the future.

For example, here at Excel Youth, we use Excel Youth Bucks. These are given to a child when they engage in different positive behaviors such as good eye contact with their counselor, not interrupting others, are kind to a friend, or even taking out the trash when the office trash can is full! These are made out of simple yet brightly colored paper. In exchange for these Excel Youth Bucks, we offer a wide variety of motivating prizes and events. We have prizes that range from extra snacks or a trip to the goodies or coping skills box to a trip to the movies, frozen yogurt, and even SkyZone! Obviously, the bigger the event, the more Excel Youth Bucks you have to earn.

Why positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to produce quick behavior changes that last! When changing or shaping behavior, it is important to take a strengths-based approach to show your child how you want them to act. When kids feel good, they do good. Focusing on a person’s strengths when trying to shape their behavior helps build the foundation for positive relationships and good behavior will shine through. Children seek approval and validation from their parents already so we can use this to help shape their behaviors.

I’m a busy parent/caretaker! I don’t have time to make an elaborate reinforcement system for my child.

This is where we come in! Ask your Excel Youth counselor or therapist to help you and your family develop a plan to change behaviors. This could be as simple as a sticker chart, tally marks on a piece of paper, or something like Excel Youth Bucks! However, we understand not everyone has that much time, energy or resources. If you are a busy parent and always on the go, try adding in at least 3-5 verbal positive reinforcements with your children a day like “great job keeping your cool when we were in the grocery store!” or “I noticed you remembered to take the trash out without being asked, that was awesome!”.... if you’re in a big hurry a high five, pat on the back or even a thumbs up will do the trick because kids who feel good, do good.

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