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Parenting Discipleship

By Craig Caster

APPENDIX L – WORKSHEET

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT APPLIED CORRECTLY

(Review and discuss as a couple, if married)

Positive reinforcement is using charts, graphs, or some other system to record a child’s behavior, accompanied with ongoing rewards for good behavior. It is not very effective for the strong-willed child or beneficial for the compliant child for the following reasons.

  • Love, not gifts or gimmicks, is the most powerful motivator and the most powerful way to build self-worth.
     
  • Parents should be daily complimenting and praising their children because they are a gift from God, not tied to performance.
     
  • Good behavior is expected, not rewarded. Our love toward them and how we show it should not change because of their failures.
     
  • It can be beneficial for parents to use special incentives for a child who is struggling to overcome a particular weakness or personal challenge, such as bedwetting or academic struggles in school. For example: a special outing with the child or a material reward if they put forth the effort and improve in a specific area, not an ongoing reward system for perpetual behavior.
     
  • If you have a compliant child whose natural bent is to please mom and dad they will find this system very appealing. However, if they have a brother or sister who is not compliant, but has a strong-willed bent (the strong-willed child), they will begin to resent their compliant sibling and struggle with their own self-worth. They can easily become discouraged because their compliant sibling receives more gifts and/or affirmation than they receive from what they perceive comes more natural to the compliant sibling.
     
  • A perpetual system of rewards for good behavior for even a younger compliant child can set the stage for an entitlement mentality within the compliant child as he or she grows older. Once the rewards are removed, or become unsatisfactory, the compliant child may rebel in an effort to manipulate the reinstatement or improvement of the reward system to his or her benefit. The child has learned to selfishly seek the reward first and the good behavior has become only a means to a reward. Simple chores may not get done if they are not accompanied by a reward. This is teaching the child to serve only when it has personal benefit for them.

The parent’s attitude toward their child’s failures should be similar to when the child first began to walk; proud and excited when they first stood on their own and took their first steps. When they fell, the parents lovingly picked them up and encouraged them to try again, confident that in time they would develop, mature, and learn to walk on their own.

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