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Posts tagged ‘rewarding desired behaviors’

Are You Rewarding or Bribing Your Child?

SOURCE:  /Focus on the Family

I can picture the scene in my mind like it was yesterday. Chubby legs kicking. Back stiffened straight. Child wailing, “No, Mommy! No get into the cart!”

Exasperated, I wondered if this trip to the grocery store was in vain. However, I needed to get food for dinner, and this was my only opportunity. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that a lollipop was buried in the bottom of my purse.

Holding my daughter on my hip with one arm, I frantically searched until I found it. Then I said, “If you get in the cart, you can have this lollipop.”

Instantly she complied. I won the battle, but I knew this was a losing strategy.

While rewards and bribes are sometimes seen as being interchangeable, they teach opposite lessons to our children.

What’s the difference?

A bribe is offered as a means to cajole or influence a child. Typically, it is given in the midst of a tantrum or other bad behavior. Deanna McClannahan, a licensed professional counselor at Focus on the Family, advises against doing this. “Bribing is giving a child a reward for unwanted behavior,” she warns. “In turn this teaches the child that if he screams for 20 minutes, he will get a piece of candy. Next time he wants something, you have taught him to scream.”

In contrast, a reward is something that is given in recognition of a child’s effort, service or achievement. It is parent initiated and directed, and given in recognition of a child’s effort. “Giving a child a reward for positive behavior reinforces what you want your child to do more of,” McClannahan says. She emphasizes that if a child is rewarded for positive behavior, he will be better motivated to repeat it.

As parents, we want our 2-year-old to feel a bit of our delight when she helps clean up all the toys or behaves appropriately at the store. A small, appropriate reward serves to encourage a child’s future obedience.

How to reward

Children under 3 live in the moment. McClannahan says, “Younger children do not have the ability to connect long-term rewards and consequences to current actions.” For this reason, McClannahan encourages parents of young children to reward as soon as possible. “It can be appropriate to wait until you get home,” she says, “but not OK to wait until the end of the week.”

Rather than just saying, “You did a good job,” let them know exactly what they did well: “I like how you remembered to pick up your dolls and put them in the toy box.” This type of praise reinforces the behavior you want to encourage and gives your children further instruction about your expectations.

For young children, rewards can be simple. A high-five or compliment (positive attention) is sometimes all the reward a child needs. But reading a favorite book together or giving him a small treat can also serve as a positive incentive.

A lesson learned

Two children at the grocery store may each receive a lollipop. However the method in which they were given their treat has the power to teach two vastly different lessons. If it is given as a bribe, it will encourage poor behavior. The child learns that if she fusses, screams or pouts, she will be pacified with something that brings her pleasure.

On the other hand, giving the lollipop as a reward after good behavior teaches our children the joy of doing what is right. This encourages them to continue making good decisions, which is what good parenting does — trains a child in the way he should go.

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Why Compliments are Powerful

SOURCE:  

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. ~ Mother Teresa

Psychologist John Gottman most likely agrees. His widely respected research found that in good marriages, compliments outnumber criticisms by more than five to one.

My book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love:30 Minutes A Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, tells exactly how to hold a successful marriage meeting. They are short, gently structured conversations with your spouse which fosters romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.

Appreciation is the first agenda topic. Each partner takes an uninterrupted turn telling the other what he or she valued about the other during the past week. Doing this sets a positive tone for collaborative discussion of the remaining agenda topics: chores (tasks, business, etc.); planning good times; and problems and challenges.

Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. Besides enjoying the process of giving and receiving appreciation, you’re likely to find that complimenting your spouse results in her or him doing what you like more often.

Some people say they hold their own version of a weekly meeting with their spouse but without including the topic of appreciation. What’s wrong with that? By omitting this key relationship enhancer, they risk taking each other for granted.

Whether you are complimenting your mate during a marriage meeting or anytime, here are some ways to do it well:

  • “I appreciate you for cleaning the kitchen counter tonight.”
  • “Thank you for going to the play with me last Saturday night.”
  • “I like how handsome you look in the blue sweater you’re wearing now.”

If you say, “you did a good job cleaning the kitchen counter,” you are making a “you” statement. You can sound like you are judging rather than complimenting in a heartfelt way. It’s better to begin with “I.”

Other ways to enhance your appreciative comments:

  • Use body language and a warm voice. Smile and make eye contact.
  • Compliment positive character traits: “I appreciated your kindness in visiting my sick aunt with me.”
  • Be specific: “I appreciate how lovely you looked in your new navy dress you wore to the party Saturday night.”

Take nothing for granted. Does he read a bedtime story to the children? Did you like her attentiveness at the party when she caught your eye from across the room and smiled? Did you value his thoughtfulness in phoning to say he’d be late?

When complimented, listen silently, then say “thank you” graciously. Denying a compliment (e.g., saying “I look fat in that dress”) is like refusing a gift. If you haven’t learned to accept a compliment, practice. It’s important!

Do not make disguised “you” statements. They sound critical and create emotional distance. Don’t say, “I appreciate that you finally remembered to take out the garbage.” Do say, “I appreciate you for remembering to take out the garbage last night.”
Give and accept appreciation cordially, with a warm voice and soft eye contact. You’ll keep your love growing and your marriage thriving.

Not everyone is comfortable receiving appreciation. Here are some reasons:

  • People who lack self-esteem may not trust that the compliments are true.
  • Some cultures view accepting a compliment as boasting.
  • People who were raised with too much criticism or where self-disclosure was risky tend to find it hard to make I-statements. I-statements require a willingness to be vulnerable.

These challenges can be overcome with self-awareness and practice.

Noticing fine traits and behaviors in your partner produces a ripple effect. You will start noticing more often what you like about your children, other family members, friends, and co-workers.

Expressing appreciation adds to your reservoir of optimism and good feelings. Life’s stresses and tensions can reduce the supply. You’ll keep the warm feelings flowing by noticing what’s going well and communicating appreciation daily.

 

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