Parenting Resources

Positive Reinforcement for Preschoolers and Elementary Age Children

  • Although many factors contribute to the development of children’s attitudes and behaviors, parental actions can definitely help shape their children’s future responses to authority and life.
  • The following parental responses will greatly increase the chances that the child will develop noncompliance, refusing to complete actions requested by others (including teachers):
    • “Giving in” to a child’s whining or protesting
    • Changing the request to avoid the child’s negative response.  “OK, we won’t leave the park right now.”
    • Escalation of parental negative responses.  More parental yelling and screaming teaches the child to continue negative behaviors to obtain parental attention.
    • Providing too much attention for negative behaviors.
  • Instead, consider positive reinforcement whenever feasible and possible:
    • Praise your child for appropriate behaviors:  closing the door; taking their dish to the sink; saying “excuse me,” sharing/picking up toys;
    • When your child goes to bed without argument, tell them, “I appreciate how you can get ready for bed.  It helps us have a calm evening together.”
    • When your child obeys you quickly, offer a smile, hug, or words of encouragement
    • Consider implementing a reward system to reinforce specific behaviors you wish to encourage

One study demonstrated a positive parenting style can even help reduce the risk that children will become overweight. “Parental use of positive reinforcement and monitoring was associated with children’s healthy eating and exercise” in a study of 812 Latino parents and children in kindergarten through second grade.  (Arredondo EM, Elder JP, et al.  Is parenting style related to children’s healthy eating and physical activity in Latino families?  Health Education Research.  2006; 10)