Family Centre: You Catch More Flies With Honey

December 3, 2014

[Written by Family Centre Counsellor, Elisabeth Kast]

Why should we reward a child for doing what is expected of them? The reality is that we are all motivated by external factors, such as receiving a paycheque, and we all enjoy recognition for a job well-done. For children, receiving acknowledgement or a reward for good behavior is especially important because it not only shapes their behavior, it also builds their self-esteem.

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A common misconception is that the reward must be tangible or costly. Simply praising a child for positive behavior is a very effective way to provide positive reinforcement. When praising a child, it important to verbally identify what behavior you are proud of them for and try to praise them as soon as they show that behavior, especially if it is a new one.

Another effective way to reward your child for good behavior is through the use of privileges as contingencies. In other words, make access to privileges, such as electronic time or free time, contingent upon good behavior.

Using this approach, children no longer feel entitled to privileges (which is anything beyond basic necessities), but instead learn that you have to earn them by meeting reasonable expectations. Consider using a token system or sticker chart to help engage your child in the process of earning their reward.

If your child has challenges with displaying a specific behavior, focus on reinforcing them for that behavior until it comes naturally to them. You will notice a change much faster this way, as opposed to disciplining them for doing something wrong. After all, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!

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