What is Positive Reinforcement?
“Positive reinforcement” is a style of discipline that rewards desired behaviors. Positive = desired behavior and Reinforcement = give something. The opposite would be “negative punishment,” which is a style of discipline where something is taken away to discourage an undesirable behavior (like taking away screen time if your teen receives a poor grade). Sometimes the teens and older children in our lives need a little help in learning to make the right decisions. Okay, who are we kidding. They need help all the time. They’re still kids, after all! That’s where parents and caregivers come in. It’s our job to guide the kids in our lives, but it isn’t always easy. Parenting can be a challenge and it’s no fun when we have to be the “bad guy,” constantly punishing and telling young people what to do and how to behave.
What if there were a less stressful way to discipline your teen? Positive reinforcement may be the answer. According to a column in Psychology Today, Dr. Ira J. Chasnoff insists that positive reinforcement isn’t just the best option for discipline, it’s the only one that has a sustainable, long-term effect on behavior. The trick, says Dr. Chasnoff, is to “catch ‘em being good” and reward that behavior. Punishing an undesirable behavior may work in the short-term, but rewarding the good in your teen will result in long-term benefits. (Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/aristotles-child/201105/catch-em-being-good)
Rewards for Teens
What can you do to reinforce the good in your future adult? There are various echelons of reinforcement, and the simplest is a smile or a word of praise. Kids are born wanting to please their parents and your approval might mean more to them than you know. If you notice your kid doing something good today, tell him or her that you appreciate the effort. Find the good before criticizing the bad.
Larger, longer-term efforts could be met with larger rewards. Hard work at school, improvement in sports or other interests, and a commitment to respectful speech and actions are all things that we desire for our teens. Rewarding those behaviors with something like an escape room night, dinner out, or a new app or video game might be the motivator your teen needs. The opportunity for rewards is endless. What matters is that parents make a purposeful effort to catch their teens doing something good and respond as quickly as possible. If we can find the good and reinforce it, we’re likely to see more good behavior in the future.
Discipline isn’t just about punishment. Reinforcement goes a long way and is more likely to encourage long-term behavior changes in your teen. The next time you have the chance to reward the good, give it a try!