Simple positive reinforcement ideas


There are lots of ways of “doing” positive reinforcement. They can all work if applied consistently; the trick is to find one that you like and sticking with it. If the parent will not follow through, the child certainly will not follow through. Some examples of positive reinforcement:


Develop a list of family rules (some prefer the term expectations because it is less confrontational) and write them out together as a family. Every family member gets to contribute to this list. A note here, all expectations should be written as a thing to do and not as things to not do. For example, you would not say, “no yelling” be cause that does not teach what you do expect…it only lists one thing to not do. To re-word it as a positive, the expectation should read, (depending on the age of your child) “talk nicely” or “always use inside voices”. When you have created your list of family expectations, post or hang them somewhere everyone will see them on a daily basis.


There are two ways parents can now use this list: to use positive praise only, acknowledge or praise when you notice your child meeting an expectation on the list


using tokens, change, or a checkbook register (depending on age of child) give them tokens or change for positive behaviors and have child give you token or change for significant negative behaviors. It works best if parent and child develop how much change or how many tokens should represent behaviors so that rewards and punishments and will be seen as fair and expected. This also helps keep the parent honest by not punishing out of anger, which never works.


Parents can also develop a to-do list with their child and assign a point value to item. When child completes items on list they are rewarded with points which can be turned in for a variety of activities. If parents choose to use money instead of points for their older children, it can also help teach them the value of money and the importance of saving money for more expensive desired items. This is great because a side effect is teaching patience instead of instant gratification.


2 thoughts on “Simple positive reinforcement ideas

    1. I agree that there are positive and negative outcomes for all of the approaches we have to get children to do what they ought to do. Some of the smarter kids figure out pretty quickly that if they want something they can argue or yell or refuse to do a chore as a way of making the parent offer a reward for doing what they would have done anyway.
      There was a study in which children who enjoyed drawing were given a quarter every time they turned in a drawing. Pretty soon these children refused to draw, even though they enjoyed it, unless they were given a quarter.

      Whether a parent uses praise, token economy, ignoring, or punishment there will always be someone who comes along with criticism. And no one approach works for all children.

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