How Can We Promote Good Behavior in Our Children


As parents, we often wonder about the best approach for promoting good behavior in the family.  This becomes a bigger question when we have a child who throws tantrum or presents us with behavioral issues or perhaps has ADHD.  What works – or doesn’t?  The SHEMESH behavioral expert shares her insights for handling difficult behaviors and answers the question:  Do rewards work?

Does a reward system work?

Reward systems work to change behavior when they are properly designed. The following are some basic pointers.

First, a specific behavior that one wants to see more of should be targeted. For example, “being good” is vague and difficult to pinpoint if and when it happened, whereas “getting dressed before 7:30 a.m.” is easier to keep track of and reward.

It is also important to pick a behavior that is in the person’s repertoire. If a child doesn’t know how to do something, it will not help to create a chart to reward that behavior. 

Next, criteria for how and when the target behavior must occur need to be defined. Last, a reward that will maintain or increase the target behavior needs to be chosen. Keep in mind that what is rewarding for one individual might not be rewarding for another, and what is rewarding enough to maintain one behavior might not be rewarding enough to maintain another. Suppose I gave you one dollar every time that you locked the combination lock when you came in the door, that might be enough to reinforce that behavior. But if I gave you one dollar every time that you cleaned out the whole garage, I don’t know if we’d be seeing an increase in “garage cleaning.”

Most importantly, designing a good reward system can only be helpful if it is really implemented!

Good luck with your next reward system!

What is most important for me as the parent to keep in mind during an incident?

Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm!  When your child is out of sorts, he is shaky. He feels as if is whole building is about to collapse. If his parent is “losing control” or nervous, the child will feel even more shaky.

When the child sees that Mommy or Daddy is calm, he will feel that his parents are strong and in control. He will feel safe. By the way, if you expect “incidents” to happen, you’ll be a lot less frazzled when they do. You can even plan ahead and practice how you will respond. And remember, children are just growing up- challenging behavior is normal!

If my child has ADHD, how do I explain my child’s unique needs to a new teacher?

You are your child’s advocate. It is very important to explain your child’s unique needs to a new teacher, but keep in mind a few things:

  • Don’t blame the teacher for doing things wrong.
  • State the child’s needs but be understanding that your child is one of many other students in the class. Teachers might not be able to meet your child’s individual needs while running an entire classroom.
  • Ask for the teacher’s input. When the teacher comes up with an idea, she is much more likely to follow through with it.

Good luck!

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