Positive Methods to Develop Good Behaviors in Children

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

All disciplining methods are not harsh or severe.  There are many behavioral methods that are humane and effective.  There are as many proven methods to increase positive behaviors as there are to decrease inappropriate behaviors.  Furthermore, disciplining methods that do not involve physical punishment are the ones that truly contribute to character development in a child.  How so?  Because character is not built by someone standing on one's head and wielding a stick.  On the contrary, external fear weakens an individual's will-power to resist temptations when nobody is watching.  
Character is built on a positive foundation, on elements such as, praise, pride, success, and internal controls.  Fear of pain, the "stick." merely stops us from performing punishable behaviors.  Although it forces us to run from or avoid behaviors that cause pain, a stick does not cultivate positive behaviors.  Absence of inappropriate behaviors is not equal to appropriate behaviors.  When it comes to "shaping" a desirable behavior that is complex and takes a lot of learning to develop, carrots work and sticks don't.  A good behavior that is adequately rewarded, after some time, itself becomes the reward.  Performing good for the sake of good, isn't that another name for character and personal integrity?  

Methods which increase positive behaviors and do not involve physical punishment in any form are:  1  Token system.  2  Point system  3  PPH (Praise, Pats, and Hugs).  4  Cueing in and prompting.  5  Grandma's rule (Premack principle) 6  Behavioral rehearsal.       

1.  Token System:   Use it with children upto 7-8 years of age.  A token is a "token" for a reward.  Let children "cash" this token for a reward they want.  Large colorful poker chips make good tokens and small children don't run the risk of swallowing them.  Keep a clear-glass small bottle (size of Gerber-baby food bottle) in which the child saves tokens he/she earns.  This is the "piggy bank" of tokens.  The sight of the bottle swelling up with bright colored tokens, can swell the pride and joy of little ones.  Perhaps, it will also make them impatient.  When the token bottle is full, exchange it for rewards such as, ice-cream, toy, a trip to a park, reading a story to your child, etc.  
 Keep tokens handy near by or, keep them in your pocket. Tokens in your pocket are handy when you take your children to a store and reward them for behaving in the store.  Every time, you see the child performing the desired behavior, hand out a token and tell the child what it is for.  For example, "This is for helping mom with the dishes or, cleaning your room or, reading the story to your little brother,' etc.. Don't make vague references, such as, "this is for being a good kid."  Always specify the behavior you are rewarding .  Reward immediately, not one hour later, not after you finish the task on hand, but right away.  Immediacy of reward has a powerful effect.   

2.  Point system:  Use it with 8 to 15 or 16-year old children.  Make a "list of good behaviors."  This should include child's responsibilities as well.  Assign points for each behavior.  Make a "list of inappropriate behaviors" and assign points that you will subtract if the child performed those behaviors.  Make a "weekly point-chart" which has Monday to Sunday as columns, and in the rows, names of target behaviors with totals at the bottom for each day.  Review child's performance, every day at the end of the day, and total the points earned that day.  Points may be cashed by the child for cash and/or for special privileges.  Points may be cashed daily or at the end of the week as per the child's preference.          
 Follow the "rule of pocket money."  The rule of pocket money is that if a child performs all the desired behaviors, the child should be able to earn equivalent of the pocket money, if not more.  The second component of the rule of money is that "there ain't no free lunches."  Whatever the pocket money you decide to give to your children, appropriate to their age, let them earn it through their good behaviors and by fulfilling their responsibilities.     

3.  PPH:  Good for children of all ages.  Do not underestimate the power of PPH, praise, pats and hugs.  These are social rewards that make a child feel loved, honored, and valued as a person.  Very powerful stuff.  I believe it was Napoleon who recognized the power of the medals given for bravery:  an inch of metal, for which a soldier would stake his life for or even die.  When PPH are not valued by a child, it is often a sign that the child is experiencing a lot of anger, resentment, or conflict in the relationship with the caregiver.  Generally, PPH should work as a powerful motivator for good behavior.   Use PPH for any or all good behaviors that are not targeted in your token list or point list.  Whenever you catch your child performing a good behavior, give a little PPH.   You can add extra power to any reward by adding a little PPH to it.  For example, when you give a token or review the points earned for good behavior, remember to praise, pat and/or hug your child.           

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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