Kids are constantly getting confusing messages about what is expected of them from teachers, coaches, siblings, friends and mostly from the parent. By working with your child to create a plan that reinforces desired behavior with measurable success, you can ensure everyone is on the same page as to what the child’s needs are and what the plan is for himself. In no time, you will see better-behaved, more confident, and less anxious children in your household.
Reinforcement Plan for Good Behavior
As discussed in my book “Reconnected Kids” actions are reinforced by results. As your kids experience the results of their actions, they’ll work harder and harder to continue to move in an achievable direction. You are teaching them that they are the ones who control their own destiny.
Parents often err because they use a reward and punishment system based on what the parents want their kids to do and how they want them to act. If the child does what the parents want, the child gets a reward of the parent’s choosing. If the child doesn’t do what the parents want, then the child gets the punishment of the parent’s choosing. This is not the way to get children to take responsibility for their own actions or the way to build a good relationship between children and authority figures.
A Child-Directed Approach to Discipline
Instead, an effective reward punishment system is based on the child directing (with parental guidance) the rewards and punishments. All kids want to accomplish things and be successful. They want their parents to be proud of them. They want to have friends. They want to do well in school and sports. If they choose not to try and achieve any of these things, it is because they believe they will fail. Getting children on the right track requires more reinforcement than simply doing things right and getting parental approval – at least at first. A successful system requires children to choose their short-term and long-term rewards and punishments that are tied to their goals. This means the child will set the rules of the game and your job is to enforce the rules. You are simply the umpire or referee.
On pages 236 and 237 of my book “Reconnected Kids,” you’ll find an example of what a Reinforcement Plan Worksheet looks like. This will help guide you through the process and help circumvent an argument when you remind your kids of what they are working for and why. This plan can work for all children to tease out what they want and who they want to be. Your job as the parent and the coach of this process is to be patient and positive and, of course, lead by example.