Behaviour Modification Guide for Parents

Like most parents, there are probably areas of your child’s behaviour you would like to change. Let’s look at the four main ways to do this.

Behaviour Modification Methods

Positive reinforcement – This technique consistently rewards good behaviour with specific praise, high fives or fist bumps, and letting the child earn things, such as a trip to a friend’s house by completing the chores.

Negative reinforcement – This motivates kids to behave well by removing the undesirable effects of the misbehaviour. For example, you might stop watching them while they do their homework if you feel they can get it done without you sitting next to them. Removing restrictions on phones or technology is also an example here.

Positive punishment – this means adding a consequence, such as assigning extra chores to your child, sending them to bed early or another Time Out method.

Negative punishment – this means removing a privilege; for example preventing your child seeing a friend on the weekend, removing their iPad time, or not going to out for special Friday dinner.

Tips for Using these Behaviour Modification Methods

Set specific rules about where and when your children can use screens eg no screens in the bedroom, or before bedtime.

1. Focus on the Behaviour

Rather than looking for a child’s reason for misbehaving, child behaviour modification involves attending only to the undesirable behaviour.

2. Consistency is Key

To make good behavior a habit requires persistence and repetition. Regardless of which techniques you choose to use, it’s important to use them every single time your child uses the behaviour you want to stop.

3. Use Lots of Encouragement

Deliberately catch your child using good behavior and praise them for it. You can also reward them with simple little things to reinforce the behaviour. (Note that behaviour modification isn’t about buying kids things for being good. This is not desirable.)

4. Be Clear

Talk to your child about the behaviours you expect.

5. Establish a Daily Routine

This helps kids know what’s expected of them and when.

6. Be a Good Role Model

If parents keep engaging in the very behaviours they are trying to change, it confuses children and lessens the idea that you’re on the same team. Using the “but I’m the parent” line might work when kids are younger, but it loses impact (and you’ll lose respect) as they get older.

If you want more ideas on these and other techniques to help your child, reach out to one of the READ Clinic psychologists.

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