Reinforcing good behavior at an early age is a vital part of raising a toddler.
Most of us grew up in a time when the primary means of reinforcement was punishment-based and as we now know, this can and does have long-lasting repercussions.
Today we’re going to explore some positive reinforcement techniques that you can add to your toolbox.
These techniques for toddlers are based on patient repetition, encouragement, and healthy rewards and we think that you and your child are going to love the results.
It’s positive reinforcement for toddlers 101!
Let’s take a look at a little positive reinforcement that can get the job done the right way!
Table of Contents
4 Ways You Can Use Positive Reinforcement For Toddlers
Time-outs are a popular means of discipline these days – sometimes a little too popular! Like most things in life, moderation should be observed. Too many time-outs can lead to your child acting out for attention or even developing a bit of resentment.
You can even come to rely on them too much and find that you are using them for the wrong reasons.
That’s why it’s a good idea to shake things up a bit by introducing ‘interactive time-outs’ as a positive reinforcement method.
During these periods, you can watch something educational together or you could read to your child.
Using positive reinforcement can also be fun, right?
Don’t use this time to discuss what they did wrong, however, as you don’t want them to be on the defensive. Save any references to that for the end of the time-out.
Remember, the goal of a time-out is to calm your child down and to get them thinking rationally instead of acting out. To this effect, keeping things interesting can help to avoid your child becoming resentful and help to ensure that time-outs remain an effective and kind approach to teaching self-discipline.
Praise the good, explain the bad Praise the good, explain the bad
For a long, long time we’ve believed that you should praise the good and punish the bad. Modern parenting techniques seem to indicate that we can accomplish more with a modified approach.
We’re keeping the praise, as this has definitely been proven to boost confidence and to help build positive associations with desired behavior but when it comes to ‘punishing the bad’, explaining to your child what they have done wrong can get you a lot more mileage.
Try this: When your child does something kind, like sharing a toy, or responsible, like cleaning their room without your asking, then praise them. When they do something wrong, rather than punish them, sit your child and simply explain what they have done wrong.
Try this before going to time-outs and just keep your patience close. Everything is still new to toddlers and they don’t really understand ‘the rules’ yet. Punishment can make things harder to understand but toddlers understand a friendly tone.
So nudge them in the right direction and explain to them when they are doing something wrong. Over time, it will sink in and lessons learned soon become habits that can last a lifetime.
Reminders are better than demands
Sometimes it can be frustrating for both you and your child when constant reminders are required. ‘Stop running around the living room’, for instance, or ‘your toys belong in your room’ are just two examples of things that you can easily find yourself repeating all day.
You’ll be happy to know, however, that there is something else that you can do.
Brief reminders, spoken in a pleasant, but firm tone, can get the job done without making your child go on the defensive. Simply enunciating ‘walk’ quite clearly can remind your child to slow down.
Asking ‘toys go where?’ works surprisingly well too, with a little practice.
We’re also going to counsel that you don’t overuse this. ‘Selective ignoring’ is the practice of occasionally letting some things go and it serves an important purpose.
Some children are prone to acting out to get your attention, and picking and choosing when you will give them reminders or ignore an issue (for now) can teach them that negative behavior won’t always get them attention.
Finally, it helps to create a more peaceful environment, as both you and your child will be less stressed if you aren’t spending all of your time giving them reminders or demands.
So, nudge them in the right direction and let them figure it out on their own sometimes. They’ll learn and the resulting atmosphere from this technique will be great for everyone.
Stickers and privileges
Sometimes you can get really frustrated with your toddler’s behavior and the temptation to ‘bribe’ them with toys can be hard to resist. Rather than getting them something new you might want to consider rewarding them with extra time with things that they already have.
Get yourself a calendar and some stickers and you’ve got a great tool for enforcing desirable behaviors. First off, you’ll want to decide a specific behavior that you are trying to enforce and stick to just that one.
Later on, you can expand this, but it’s important to keep things simple so that your child doesn’t get frustrated or confused.
Next, you will want to decide on a reward system. An easy method is to make up some ‘coupons’ that offer extended privileges or simple rewards, such as ’15 minutes of extra coloring’, ‘a trip to the local park’, or even ‘have your favorite dinner’ may be used (but only make one of those, as we want to avoid over-associating food with reward).
The idea is that you:
- Place the coupons in a hat or a bowl
- Your child earns 7 or 10 stickers
- They get to draw a coupon as a reward.
Let’s say that we are trying to teach young Joe to put away his coloring books when coloring time is over. This time, Joe puts the books away… you offer praise and put a sticker on the calendar in front of him.
After he reaches 7 stickers, then you tell him he gets to pull a ‘reward coupon’ that he can use whenever he likes.
You are reinforcing a specific behavior to the point that it is becoming a habit. Then, you can try this with another behavior and eventually more than one.
Give it a try and see for yourself, because this one really works!
As you can see, there’s always a way to reinforce the lessons that you are trying to teach without resorting to negative methods. Using positive reinforcement works too!
Just keep in mind that your toddler still doesn’t have a full understanding of the rules yet, but with a lot of patience and some gentle nudging in the right direction you’ll be seeing great results in no time!
Positive reinforcement is a key part of positive discipline, and positive parenting, so take what you have learned from this post, and apply it!