Behavior Management Strategies: Positive Reinforcement

In my last post, I talked about the ABCs of Behavior, which is a great way to collect data on behaviors that may be a concern. But, what do you do with that data? First, you look for patterns. Let’s say that the pattern you found was in the ‘CONSEQUENCES’ column.  Every time that Sara screamed, she would receive attention.  One thing to remember is that attention is attention whether it’s positive or negative attention.

Now comes the tricky part, changing the behavior.  I think that an important part of this is first recognizing what you (the adult) needs to change in your own behavior before attempting to change the child’s behavior.

When it comes to ‘attention’, how we react to behaviors becomes very important.  We may need to change how we react to certain situations, and we may need to give more attention whenever we see positive behaviors displayed by a child.  For every correction or negative comment that is given, a child should receive at least 4 positive comments/interactions.

Positive Reinforcement Pin5

Here are some ideas to help you as you make a plan (I’m sure there’s many more ideas that many of you can come up with too)

  • Increase your positive reinforcement during times when the child is acting appropriately (not just following a “tantrum”, but throughout the day)
  • Plan times to spend one on one to play, especially if you know that your child is seeking attention.
  • When a child is having a “tantrum” compliment the other kids who are acting appropriately, and be specific about what you like that they are doing.  Then when the child having a hard time does any of those things, immediately compliment him/her, reinforcing the behaviors you do like.  If there are no other kids around, it’s fine to compliment the stuffed bear sitting in the chair for sitting quietly.
  • Teach a replacement behavior.  What do you want the child to do instead of screaming?  Help walk them through the steps, then give positive reinforcement (or natural consequences of giving them what they want, if appropriate) when they use the replacement behavior.
  • Ignore the inappropriate behavior (if it’s safe), but follow up with positive reinforcement the second they are doing anything appropriate.  If they are screaming, compliment them the second they stop.  Be specific in your compliments though.  Instead of “good job” say “I like how you have a quiet voice and are using your words to tell me what you want.”
Something to remember is that there is something called an extinction burst which means that often times the behavior will get worst before it gets better.  Sometimes the limits have to be tried before the child realizes it’s not working.  So don’t give up, these things take time.  Consistency is the key, and some of the most important times are not when the child is in the middle of the crisis cycle, but when they are calm and happy.  Positive reinforcement can be pretty powerful.

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