3 Tips of Positive Reinforcement for Children




Today we will be reviewing my top 3 tips of positive reinforcement for children.  This is a vitally important perspective to have in life as our future literally depends on today’s youth.  Making sure that we raise our kids to have positive thinking for themselves is a huge benefit for us all.

A Little Background First

My wife and two youngest kids. Virginia Beach, 2014.

Before I get into the tips however, please allow me to give you a little bit of background on myself and my family.  I was the last child of three and lagged behind by almost 10 years to my older siblings.  I started my family at a young age with my first being born when I was 18.  Eight years later we had a daughter and three years after that our last child was born.

While I can not lay any claims to being the parent of the year at all, I do have many years of experience along with solid perspectives on how to be a positive example for kids.  I have a great memory of my childhood and how it felt to be a kid and being the parent of 3 kids with an age gap between the oldest and next two.

1. Be a Positive Example

When I didn’t worry about my arrival time it quickly spread to others.

Interestingly enough, this was a lesson I learned while I was climbing into retail management back in my days in the mobile phone industry.  I had seen it as a sales rep and as an assistant manager, but the lesson really didn’t sink in for me until I was a retail store manager.

When I became a manager I thought I could just go and act just like the other managers that I had worked for and with.  However, I quickly learned that my employees tended to do what I did and not what I said.  So for instance when I didn’t worry about what time I arrived at the store, I very quickly had attendance issues with my employees.

This holds true for being a parent as well.  You see our kids look up to us to learn just how they should be acting.  If you tell you kids not to get angry and yell at video games and yet when you play you do so, guess how they are going to behave?  They will follow your example much more than what you tell them to do.

I am sure that most of us can reflect back to a time when we were young and our parents were telling us one thing but acting that way themselves.  How did that make you feel at the time?  I can hear the claims of unfairness still echoing when I allow my mind to wonder back to those times.

2. Positive Discipline for Your Kids

Watching this show helped us to refine our discipline techniques.

There are many different forms of discipline that you can use on your kids, but keeping it positive can be a bit tricky.  After watching Supernanny on TV, my wife and I quickly adopted using time outs for disciplining our kids and had a lot of success with it.

You see I had grown up and my mom believed it was best to “ground” me for long periods of time, which in the long run had a lot of negative effects on my life.  These periods often started at a week or two and sometimes lasted even longer.  They kept me from developing my social skills and caused a lot of resentment towards my mother during my youth.

Time outs bring a concise way of taking care of the problem at hand without any long term interruptions to you or your child’s life.  The only trick with them is to stick with the program and I highly recommend checking out some of the Supernanny shows if you need to see it in action.

Another item to keep in mind here is to think about what you say to your kids before you do.  What I mean by this is don’t threaten with a punishment unless you are willing to follow through with it.  For example lets say you tell you kid that if they don’t stop they will be grounded for a week.  If they don’t stop you need to back up what you said and ground them for a week.

3. Positive Feedback Examples

This book really helped me learn about being mindful of how I talked and gave praise.

Providing feedback to children on the things that they are doing or working on is a lot more important than some would think.  Remember as a parent, you are your child’s first hero and you need to play the role!  So lets take a look at some ways of providing positive feedback.

Be Mindful of the Words You Use – I talked about this subject on a broader view before, but it is well worth repeating when it comes to helping our future generations get off to a better start.  The basic concept though is to use words that reward the effort put into something rather than words that just praise the end result.

I myself learned about this concept while reading the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.  In the example below you will see how I gave positive feedback showing emphasis on the effort that they put into the project.  This teaches the child that it was the work they did to get the praise which in turn teaches them to work hard.

The Constructive Criticism Sandwich – First, this is a great technique that works well beyond than just with kids.  The method relies on providing something positive first, followed by constructive criticism and ends with another positive.  This helps ease the child into the conversation with the positive, gives them an opportunity to learn how to improve and sends them out on a good note. For example:

Your young child proudly comes up to you to show you the picture that they just finished coloring and asks you what you think.  You look at the picture and see that they did an okay job, but had trouble staying in the lines and filling in some spaces.

The bread is the positive reinforcement, while the heart of the sandwich is the constructive criticism.
The bread is the positive reinforcement, while the heart of the sandwich is the constructive criticism.

I would start off with a positive such as, “Wow, I can see that you have been working hard on this.”  Then I would go into some details about how they can stay in the lines better, typically even providing an example to show them how.  Lastly I would close out the conversation with another positive such as, “I am very proud of your work and can’t wait to see how you continue to improve.”

Share Your Positive Reinforcement Tips

What tips do you have that you can share with us?  I would love to hear how you have kept things positive for your children and don’t forget that it could be your example that is the aha moment for another reader here to understand the concept.  By providing your perspective you could help make a little part of this world a lot more positive.  Please share with us in the comment box below!

Lastly here are some related articles that we have shared in the past that you may enjoy as well as this one:

James W D

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14 Replies to “3 Tips of Positive Reinforcement for Children”

  1. Hi James
    great site and article. I have spent the last 20+ years in education and at many times would assist parents to develop their positive reinforcement techniques. Most parents, through no fault of their own, don’t recognize the difference between punishment and positive reinforcement and so its great to see a website helping others to understand the benefits. While we must ensure our children do not repeat undesired behaviors we can do this proactively and positively rather than always relying on punitive measures.
    Great article, very thorough and of great benefit.

    • Jason, Thanks for the compliment first, I really appreciate it. Knowing that you have all of that experience and appreciate my content here is very heart warming and helps me to know that I am on the right path, so I thank you for that as well. You are right in that proactive approaches work much better than just reacting to their behavior as well.

  2. Hey, James! Reading this brought back many memories for me, not just from my childhood, but also from raising my own son (26 now). You definitely learn from your mistakes along the way, but keeping everything on a positive note makes even the mistakes seem not so bad. I remember, growing up, my mom being very critical and it was impossible to please her. For example, with household chores…the bathroom was never clean enough, the carpet wasn’t swept right, etc. That was something I really focused on with my own son when he was small and even still to this day. No matter what, if he’s put forth a true effort, I praise him for a job well done. It’s paid off; as football captain,I saw him work to be a positive example to his team mates and offered constructive positive comments often. I saw it when he was a store manager in how he treated the employees under him. And, now, with his own baby I’m sure it will be no different. Thanks for another awesome post!

    • Barb, Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is great to see that you were able to learn from mom’s mistakes with you. Carrying forth then and making sure not to repeat them with you son is just great and now you are seeing the benefits of positive reinforcement with him.

  3. Hey James thank you for a great read. I do have children of my own and I started young to at 18. Wouldn’t change anything about that, it made me grow up and be the man I am today with to beautiful healthy daughters. Everything you said is true, especially about our kids being the future. They really do look up to us and the way we act because when they get older they will do the same. Kids are like sponges and just soak up everything they see and hear thats why it important for us to lead by example. Thank you again James for a great read and I look forward to your future posts.

    • Yes our kids are definitely like sponges all the time! That is why it is so important to make sure that you are setting a positive example for you. Glad that you enjoyed the content here and are looking forward to more, I promise I won’t disappoint you!

  4. I loved your post as it is very much in line and with my own thoughts and approach to raising my own children. I loved your analogy in being a positive example for your children. Even the youngest of children love to mimic the adults around them. And you’re right too much discipline can be detrimental more than it is constructive.

    Your three tips for positive reinforcement really ring true. Positive reinforcement should be feedback meant to help the person or child. It should never be used to be mean, destructive or overly critical. What is your suggestion regarding positive reinforcement for child who is overly sensitive?

    • Debra, yes I have found that no matter what I do in life when I am at home that soon after I see my kids doing the same things. My youngest Alex used to play Minecraft a lot but then stopped saying it was a little kids game. Here we are a year later and I have been playing it and guess who also is playing it again?

      As for the overly sensitive child, the best thing here really is the constructive criticism sandwich. By using the positive intro and exit it mutes the actual criticism itself. Plus it is very important to be mindful of the words you choose when providing the ways to improve. I personally think it is best to show with examples. Take the instance I gave here, I would say hey I see you had a few problems staying inside the lines, let me show you how I learned to avoid that. Then I would grab a crayon and show them my technique that I use when coloring.

      I have used this sandwich technique a lot in my life and not just with my kids. I have used it a lot in the adult world and it worked wonders even with the most sensitive of them.

  5. James,
    As an older single parent of a 10 year old, I find it difficult to relate to his style of growing up sometimes. I did learn the sandwich approach when I was in charge of a warehouse when I worked. It does work very well and does work on children also. The more positive that you treat your children and give them an example to live up to, I think the better they will turn out. I try not to win every skirmish in the war of life, life is too short to always want to be right and it does lead to very harsh feelings.
    The big factor for me is letting him grow up without being overbearing. I want him to develop his own taste in life without going out of bounds. I just want to heard him and not dictate what he does.

    • It can definitely be hard to understand what today’s children are faced with in terms of growing up. The most important thing you can do here is to listen to them and put yourself in their shoes. This will allow you to get a better grasp on their perspective, which in turn will help you to be able to guide them.

      This is where setting a positive example really comes into play. By going this route you provide them with a good way of doing things without being overbearing. Again, listen to them and hear what they are saying. reflect back to when you were a kid and how you felt at times when you were dealing with your parents. Overall, just be patient and it will all work out for you.

  6. I struggle with this on a regular basis. I have trouble staying positive internally so it’s no wonder that I struggle with positive reinforcement for my children. These are really good tips though. I especially like the sandwich. I will try to use it more often. Great article, thanks!

    • Casey, I can certainly understand as well as I have struggled with quick to anger issues throughout my life. I have been diligently working on it though especially when I seen it start to affect my kids. Just make a conscious effort to work on it each day, especially when the negativity rears up. It might not always be easy, but with each day you work at it you will get better and better at it. It is just like exercising your body, but with your mind instead.

        • Anytime Casey. I would recommend checking out some of my other articles as I think they would be beneficial perspective for you. Struggling with negativity can be hard and getting a better perspective on life and how to be positive can work wonders for you.

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