Angie Chandler, contributing writer
In preparation for summer, when children are home, I would like to share three skills you can implement to encourage positive behavior. Not only does behavioral science and research tell us these work, but I have used and implemented these skills as an educator for over 10 years with great success.
Catherine Pearlman, Ph.D., and founder of The Family Coach, said, “Most typically, developing children really aren’t to blame for their behavior. We, the parents, are responsible.” This is actually good news because we have the power to create positive change within the walls of our own home.
Children are not born innately knowing how to behave well. As parents we often think, “My child would never behave that way,” or “They know better than that.” I’d encourage you to remove those statements from your vocabulary and reflect. A parent must model appropriate behavior.
Example one: Sam is playing trains, building wooden tracks, and choo-choo-ing. Then sister Bella comes over to play and takes the train from him. This results in Sam screaming, yanking the toy train out of her hands, hitting her, and tears from both children. Mom runs to the scene. Mom reprimands brother for hitting and sister for taking, followed by time out.
Example two: Mom sits on the floor with Sam and Bella. She talks about how to work together to build a train track so they can play together. Sam puts a piece down, next Bella, then mom. Soon the track is built. All the while mom uses language like, “Sam I like how you are playing nicely. This track is looking really great. This is going to be so fun for you and Bella to play with. Bella, thank you for taking turns.” Once the track is built, mom stays and plays for a while. If there is a disagreement, she is there to model: “Bella, if you would like that car, ask Sam for a turn.” Soon mom steps away and is able to get some laundry folded while the two play independently and nicely on the living room floor. Mom modeled how to play together appropriately instead of just expecting her children to know how to do that on their own. She is shaping behavior.
Roleplaying means you act out or perform a specific skill or part of a character together. With your children, use roleplay to teach qualities like honesty, sharing, and kindness. Consider acting out what to do and what not to do in certain situations. This helps a child build confidence in skills and be able to perform those skills when faced with a situation without you. Benefits of roleplay are big. It teaches in a positive, real, appropriate way. Roleplay happens before a skill can be put to use. For children, life is learning, practicing what is learned, and then performing the skills they know.
Psychologist B.F. Skinner thought the key to understanding why people do what they do is to understand what they get from it. Skinner believed that what happened immediately following an action would determine if that action would be repeated. If you praise a child immediately and frequently after a behavior is given, it increases the chance of that behavior repeating itself. Reinforcing a behavior makes it stronger. Research tells us that in an effective classroom and positive home, the praise ratio is four positives to every one negative. This means as parents we need to see the good. Less criticism and more praise will shape our children’s behavior in a positive way.
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. If what you are doing isn’t improving behavior in your home, then try something different. These three steps will be a great start!