Positive Reinforcement Works Better
The whole idea behind this simple strategy of positive reinforcement is a very simple one; children respond better to praise rather than to criticism or correction. If parents acknowledge and highlight all that children do correctly- clean up, finish their vegetables, play quietly, or finish their chores on time, children will do more of these things as they love the good feelings that come with positive reinforcement.
Initially, positive reinforcement could come in various forms such as applause, stickers, treats, and many more little ways however, research indicates that the most effective form of reinforcement is intrinsic and we should strive to get our children to be internally motivated and do things that give them joy and satisfaction, rather than working just for the external rewards.
A Montessori philosophy aids children in becoming more self-reliant, building on their own potential and confidence. This helps them become independent lifelong learners. With this focus on independence, it’s important then for the motivation to come from within themselves. In an IB curriculum where the development of the skills or Approaches to learning is an integral part, it’s these skills that support a student’s sense of agency encouraging them to see their learning as an active dynamic process that helps them become self-regulated learners.
Children do positive things all the time, it’s just that the misbehavior becomes more noticed as it’s louder or more distracting, whereas the positive behavior is often quiet, passive and softer. It’s important for parents to look for these precious moments and commend their children when they notice them doing something special or demonstrating good behavior.
The most effective form of praise is to praise the effort more than the outcome – the process rather than the result. For example, you could say- “I am really proud of the way you are picking up your toys” as they are collecting them rather than wait for them to clear all and finish the task
One strategy that often seems to work to reduce poor behavior is to first offer 3-4 sentences that the child is doing positively before you address the one not-so-appropriate behavior that you wish to highlight. If the ‘ unpleasant behavior’ is not dangerous or harmful to the child- something like whining or crying, you could choose to ignore it for a bit. It is often likely to stop once they realize they are not getting the attention they wished for.
‘Be the change you wish to see’ – Role model positive behavior at all times. your child is always watching you, even when you think they are not paying attention. They see how you react in stressful situations or unpleasant experiences. They watch how you treat other people. They soak in everything in their environment like little sponges, and this is what shapes their behavior and character.
The more you reinforce the positive, the easier it is to notice these opportunities, and then it snowballs and you see more of the good behavior. This focus on the positive has a dramatic impact on the overall behavior and mood swings of children (and parents.)