Strategies for Positive Parenting

Dr. Peter Jaksa shares his tips to encourage good behavior in children.

Wouldn’t parenting be a breeze if children naturally did everything they were “supposed” to be doing? This is one of those “should” questions that usually confuses the issue. If children with ADHD could simply do the things they “should” be doing, they would have already done them. There would be no need for behavior modification, teaching behavioral strategies and coping skills, or using medication to help manage symptoms.

The question makes it sound like rewarding good behavior is “giving in” to the child or spoiling the child. It is more helpful to think of reward-based behavior modification as a teaching tool that helps build good conduct.

While most children are able to follow instructions and behave accordingly, children with ADHD have difficulty sustaining attention to tasks when there is no immediate feedback or payoff. They need rewards, such as token or chip systems, to keep them motivated to do things that are not intrinsically rewarding or stimulating.

If you want to increase a positive behavior (i.e. hang up your jacket when you get home from school), acknowledge and reward it. Rewarding that behavior every single time helps the child learn the behavior through repetition. Reward systems also help increase the motivation to repeat the behavior in the future. Repeated good behaviors, over time, develop into good habits.

Once the behavior gets more established, rewarding it once in a while actually becomes more effective than rewarding the behavior every single time. In time, the rewards can be phased out, but the positive habit remains in place. An occasional verbal acknowledgment and praise can still work wonders, though, for instilling a sense of pride in the child, and creating good feelings between parents and children.

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