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Change kids' behaviour without rewards or bribes

19 May
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Use feedback to change kids’ behaviour

There are many strategies you can use to improve or change children’s behaviour.

Some like, bribery, may be effective in the short term, but keeping relying on that method to get kids to cooperate and you need deep pockets as today’s little toy is tomorrow’s games console. Your bribes need to be bigger and better each time!

One simple strategy for improving behaviour and promoting the behaviour you want is the provision of good feedback when kids behave well.

I call this strategy ‘ describing them being good’ as it goes one step further than simply making a fuss. It involves describing their behaviour so that you shape future behaviours.

Sounds complicated, but it’s not.

First, it’s important to remember that parental recognition is a high driver for kids. They like to please their parents so making a fuss when they do the right thing means they are more likely to do it again. No guarantees, mind you! Just likelihoods!

Second, figure out a behaviour you want to improve and focus on that. An example maybe you want kids to pack up their toys after each time they’ve played with them.

Third, make sure kids know what’s expected of them. Show as well as tell them what you want.

Next, when children approximate those behaviour make a fuss, but tell them what they have done. “Wow! It’s great that you put each toy away before getting the next one out. That’s smart. And look, you put it in the right container. Look at all the room you have made to play.”

There are three features to using feedback to change or shape kids’ behaviour:

1. Immediate: Wait too long and its impact is lost.

2. Descriptive: tell’em exactly what you saw (and what you want)

3. Amplify with touch, eye contact & voice: Smile, touch or hug them and get excited and you’ll find its impact is magnified tenfold.

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