Getting children to mind
Sandra Schiele, Counsel House
Recently, I shared about the importance of mirroring home-schooling structure after the in-person education system. We began discussing how to achieve order in the day with such techniques as positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement refers to giving a child something she/he wants. This can involve a reward. Often these terms are used interchangeably. Reinforcement and rewards consist of tangible and intangible items. It can appeal to one of the five love languages identified by Gary Chapman.
The first love language is “quality time.” When rewarding a child, spend a few minutes giving her/him your undivided attention. Spend time without electronics or other distractions showing interest in her/his life. The second love language is “physical touch.” Give your child a hug, a pat on the shoulder or a kiss on the cheek when she/he is studying or completing homework. The third love language is “acts of service.” Do something special for your child. Make a favorite meal or dessert. The fourth love language is “words of affirmation.” Praise your child. Say “great job, I’m really proud of you for getting a ‘B’ on your math homework.” The fifth love language is “receiving gifts.” Purchase something your child wants after she/he has shown a genuine effort in adhering to the school schedule. This is not a bribe. This is a reward. It’s similar to adults receiving a paycheck for the completion of a work week. Other rewards include extending bedtimes, letting the child choose a movie for the family to watch and allowing the use of electronics.
Negative reinforcement differs in that it doesn’t give a child something she/he wants. It, instead, removes something that the child doesn’t like. For example, the parent stops raising her/his voice once the child resumes her/his studies. Subtracting 30 minutes of daily, mandatory study time when a child gets an “A” on her/his spelling test is another example of negative reinforcement.
Punishment gives a child something they don’t want (positive punishment) or removes something they do want (negative punishment). When a child exhibits an undesired behavior, examples of positive punishment are to scold or spank her/him. Examples of negative punishment are to remove electronics or other toys and grounding.
Lastly, we have extinction. This neither gives nor takes away anything. Some clinicians may consider examples to be completely ignoring the behaviors of the child, barring any harmful acts, and using time-out, one minute per one year of the child. Other clinicians may group these two into negative punishment and positive punishment, respectively. Either way, both strategies are useful.
Stay tuned for more helpful information as it relates to improving our emotional and behavioral health. Remember, if we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected]
Editor’s note: Sandra Schiele is a licensed behavioral health specialist who practices at Counsel House in Corydon.