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Parenting - The importance of Positive Feedback, Praise and Rewards

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Grainne acknowledges that discipline is one of the most important aspects of parenting but what is usually forgotten amongst parents of busy households is positive feedback, praise and rewarding your children. Grainne will explain the importance of positive feedback and praise, how to go about using this in everyday parenting and also rewarding your children (not always with toys and sweets).

Who Is The Guest?
Grainne Ryan, Public Health Nurse

Introduction Positive Feedback

All too often parents focus on tackling problem areas or dealing with specific types of bad behaviour and forget that there is more to parenting than that. Of course discipline is a key a part of raising children, but so also is a positive approach to encourage your children to achieve their own goals.

Positive reinforcement through praise, rewards and shared activities is the other side of the discipline equation. Through positive feedback, you can guide your children in the direction of the behaviour you wish to encourage and this also helps build relationships within the family, between each child and each parent.

Positive reinforcement is just as important as disciplining your child/ children when they have broken house hold rules or crossed the line. Sometimes when behaviour has deteriorated to the point where each day is a constant battle, it can be difficult to see aspects of children's behaviour that deserve praise and approval, but it is amazing how encouragement will always have a powerful effect in turning naughty behaviour around. Encouraging and rewarding good behaviour gives children the incentive to carry on behaving will. This builds self-esteem and motivates them to continue behaving well.

Identifying good behaviour is just as important as disciplining your children
When you discipline your child you tell them why you are warning them and identify the bad behaviour. When your child is behaving well, single out the good behaviour. If you don't identify the good behaviour, how will your child know what he is been praised for.
Good behaviour can often go unnoticed. Parents often fall into the trap of only rewarding their children with their attention when they behave poorly. This can be difficult to break.

Don't wait to praise your child - an immediate response will help her associate good behaviour with positive attention. It is good to revisit the day's highlight later on. When your are putting your children to bed remind them what they did right and how it made your feel. This makes a positive end to the day.

How to praise your child

Tone of voice - 'voice of approval' high in pitch and enthusiastic. When you talk to a baby people instinctively go up a register. This is the same tone you should use to praise your child.

Tactile- you can also use touch to signal approval and reassurance pat on the back, a hug, a kiss, a smile.

Body language is very important
Adapt your response to the age of your child -
'Thank you very much for helping Mam set the table.
'You played together very nicely while I fed your baby sister. Well Done. That makes me very happy'

Reward charts
Specific to each family- it is important to suit the reward charts to the age of the children and what they are interested in. Very young children respond well to something simple, bold and bright:

Poster of the sky - For younger children. Aim towards the sun and use clouds as stepping stones on the way up to the sun. Each can have a toy plane that could be stuck to a cloud with blu-tack. If a child behaves well the plane hopped up to the next cloud. When the plane reached the sun he got a treat ( a treat should be something you do together - walk in the park, cinema)

Princess Castle - for girls use a background of a castle, each girl can be given her own cut-out' princess' (with a picture of her own face on it) who moved up the chart when the child behaved well. Reaching the castle won her a treat.

Reward Jar -Use a clear plastic container as a Reward Jar. Use reward balls (any type of ball). Each time a child behaves well place a ball in the container. Decide on the number of reward balls required for a treat (10 balls)

Reward Box- get a cardboard box and decorate it. Choose a theme (Jungle) Decorate the box with leaves and jungle patterns. Cut a hole in the top of the box and fill it with rubber snakes. Each snake has a tag with a different reward listed on it. Each child is given his own net. When a child behaves well he is allowed to take a snake out of the pit and place in his net. When the child has won himself four snakes, he is allowed to choose one of them from his net. Whatever is said on the tag is his reward.

Reward Tower - very effective to teach children to work together. You can use lego here. This will work if you have a family who are very aggressive and not so well behaved- and who may even be encouraging each other in their bad behaviour. A block can be removed for poor behaviour. When ten blocks were together a reward can be given. This will encourage children to work together in a positive way.

Treats on a budget
You don't have to spend a fortune to have fun with your children. Collect old buttons, scraps of ribbon, wool, string or tinfoil, cut pictures out of magazines, recycle wrapping paper, empty cereal boxes and toilet tolls and get creative with scissors and glue. Make pretty keepsake boxes, space rockets, robots, toy animals---- whatever your imagination takes you.

What kind of rewards should you use in conjunction with a reward chart?
What do children want most? Often it isn't the latest toy or gadget; instead it is your time and attention. I like to reward children with outings, games or special one to one time with a parent rather than material possessions or sweets. I have no real objection to small treats and toys , but time and attention are better rewards and can go a long way towards building relationships within the family.

Small rewards might include a trip to the swimming pool, fun activities like making cakes or doing arts and crafts, one to one attention with Mum or Dad, playing a favourite game or sport.

Bigger rewards might be occasions such as a trip to the cinema or a meal out, a day at the fun park, bowling something you don't do on a regular basis. It can be a whole family affair or a chance for one to one time with mum or dad.