'MAKING REWARDS WORK' by Dr Elizabeth Kilbey
'MAKING REWARDS WORK' by Dr Elizabeth Kilbey
expert: Dr Elizabeth Kilbey is a child psychologist and regularly appears on the BBC's House of Tiny Tearaways. She is also currently a consultant to Kinder, the leading kid's confectioner, who have recently conducted research into rewards and how mum's feel about the way they reward their children. Interestingly the research showed that 52 percent of parents do use rewards following good behaviour, while 48 percent confessed that theyused treats to stop children misbehaving. Here Elizabeth gives her top tips on how best to use rewards.
THE THREE R's
Rewards are such an important part of children's lives. Children are not born knowing how to behave well. They have to learn this skill just like most other things in their life. Rewards are a great way of communicating to your child about how you want them to behave and when you are pleased with their actions. When it comes to rewards, I like to think in terms of the 3 R's.
Rewards: to be effective give rewards soon after a behaviour has occurred and make sure your child knows why they are being rewarded. Vary your rewards as much as possible and don't forget that hugs, kisses, praise and even 1:1 playtime are some of the best rewards you can give your child.
Relationships: reinforcing your child's positive behaviour through affection and praise not only builds their self-esteem but also helps strengthen the relationship between you and your child.
Responsibility: giving your child sensible, appropriate and varied rewards teaches them to take responsibility for their own behaviour and to make wise choices for themselves in the future.
HOW TO PLAY WITH YOUR CHILD
As we get older we forget lots of things and one of them is how to play. What this means is that when our children say "will you play with me", we often find it really hard to play with them. Here are a few tips:-
a) First make sure you are ready to play. Turn off all distractions and have your toys or games ready.
b) Be clear about how long you are going to play together for. 10 minutes per day is a good starting point.
c) One of the most important things to remember is to let your child lead the play.
d) To help build their imagination skills encourage them to develop the game, but they may need a little help from you. You can make suggestions but let them make the choices.
e) Try to avoid asking too many questions (and if you take a moment to listen I bet you will be surprised at how many questions you ask).
f) Instead of asking questions you can comment on what you and your child are doing together, for example "we are building a really tall tower", or "the cars are racing round the track". At first you may feel silly doing this but if you can carry on with your describing it is an excellent way to develop your child's language skills and motor and social development. Plus from my experience children absolutely love to know that you are paying such close attention to their play.
HOW TO USE REWARDS
Using rewards and reinforcers are a great way of managing your child's behaviour and communicating to them when you are pleased with their attitude or efforts. But for rewards to be really effective there are some important tips to follow. Star charts are a great example of a reward system but they can be harder to implement than you would think. First involve your child in drawing up the chart and get them to help design and colour it in. Then choose two or three things that you really want to focus on or change. Remember to keep it simple and very specific, for example brushing their teeth each morning, making their bed or doing their homework each night. For younger children you could have using the toilet or potty. Don't make it too vague, like 'being good' or 'playing nicely with a sibling', because it is very hard for your child to know when they have achieved this and earnt their star. Another important principle is that star charts work on positive reinforcement. Children can earn stickers or starts but not lose them, even if they behaviour deteriorates. If they don't achieve their target they have a gap on their chart, never a negative sign such as a cross or a sad face. Star charts are also most likely to be effective over a short period of time, such as two to three weeks. After that time you may need to change the goals or targets.
MANAGING DIFFICULT BEHAVIOUR
Children of all ages can show difficult or challenging behaviours at times. Finding the best ways to manage these can be tough and often frustrating. One of the most important and often most difficult things to do is to stay calm. Children are very good at picking up on your mood or feelings and staying calm will help to de-escalate situations more quickly and help you to think more clearly and stay in control. Tantrums or bad behaviour are best handled before they build out of control. So be alert for your child's early warning signs that their behaviour is becoming difficult. At the first sign of trouble act quickly to try and distract or divert them. Move their attention on to something else or get them involved in a different activity. Anything that might break the cycle of bad behaviour. If this fails and the behaviour is building them you may need to use your ignoring skills. Use your whole body to turn away from your child; do not make eye contact and definitely no talking. Keep ignoring them until their behaviour begins to reduce, and then you can return your attention to your child. The main principle of ignoring is that children often use their behaviour as a way of gaining attention (even negative attention) and so by ignoring them you give no attention to their behaviour, meaning that over time it will reduce. Ignoring is not easy and may require both practice and will power but trust me it does work.
Kiddiroo have a fantastic magnetic responsibility chart
. Catch children in the act of behaving well, reward them, and watch those appropriate behaviors multiply!