Tips on positive reinforcement for children

Parents often focus on their children’s misbehaviors and try to control them. Instead, they should notice the good actions and use positive reinforcement for children. If you are also struggling to make your child follow some simple rules, try positive reinforcements to shape their behavior.  

Positive reinforcement does not always have to be done with rewards and gifts. You can bring changes to your child’s behavior with simple acknowledgments like praises, smiles, cheers, or clapping. Also, let your children know why they are praised.  

In this article, I will give you some tips on using positive reinforcements for your children. Before that, let us know how positive reinforcements work. 

How Does Positive Reinforcement Work?

Positive reinforcement is a type of Operant conditioning that introduces desirable or pleasant motivation following a positive behavior. It helps to make sure a person will reenact the same behavior in the future for more desirable stimuli. You can see positive reinforcement applied in our day-to-day life.

For instance, people working in an office get paid at the end of each month and receive bonuses for high work performance, which acts as positive reinforcement for them

Children can be trained to show good behavior through positive reinforcement like adults. It may not always seem like it, but children are desperate to get the approval of their parents. When you notice your child’s positive behaviors and compliment them for their actions, they feel happy and encouraged. 

It increases the possibility of repeating the behavior more often. Eventually, they will decrease their negative behaviors that displease you and focus on other positive behaviors. Once they realize the behaviors are actually benefiting them, they naturally perform positive actions without the promise of a reward. 

Tips on Positive Reinforcements

Children often misbehave and throw tantrums just to get their parent’s attention. That is why when you tell them to stop misbehaving; they may stop for the moment but later behave the same way again. This happens because they know they will get your attention by doing so.

Therefore, try to ignore commenting on their misbehaviors and pay attention to their positive actions. Here are some tips on positive reinforcement for children:

1. Be the Role Model

If you want your children to have some specific good qualities, first, embody those qualities in yourself. Your children spend most of their time observing you. They pay more attention to what you do than to what you tell them to do.

So, if you want your children to make the bed every morning, make it while they watch. Again, if you want them to use the words ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You,’ use the words yourself while talking to them. 

2. Observe Your Child’s Actions for Positive Behaviors

Observe your child’s behavior when they are busy on their own. Find something positive to compliment them. Ignore negative behaviors that may not matter too much. Also, consider their intentions. Sometimes, their intentions are not bad. They make mistakes. 

You may find them cleaning their plates after dinner or brushing their teeth without you telling them. After they finish, praise them for their efforts like “I really appreciate your help cleaning up the plate” or “You brushed your teeth already? Good Job!”  

3. Choose Intangible Rewards over Tangible Rewards

Use intangible rewards like praise, cheers, smiles, etc. more than tangible rewards. Yes, you can give your children toys, books, treats, and other things as a reward, but the effect of tangible rewards is not as strong as intangible rewards. Your children will love to have your attention and approval more than your money. 

4. Use Simple and Positive Instructions

Your instructions for your children should be age-appropriate. They should be simple to understand by a child. Besides, the instructions should be positive. Do not sound too demanding or authoritative when you ask them to do something. 

For example, when children are being loud while playing in the house, say, “Please, lower your voice” instead of “Do not make noise.”

5. Give Your Children Responsibilities 

Set some age-appropriate responsibilities for your children. By the age of six, they should organize their clothes. 

And by the age of 9, they should do their homework without you telling them. Also, discuss some house rules with them and decide what will be the consequence if they do not perform their duties on time. 

6. Praise Their Efforts

Do not forget to praise your children when they complete their responsibilities. Praise them for their efforts and not just for the end results. Your child may try to do something for the first time. Thus, they may not be able to finish the job smoothly. 

For example, your children may try to fold their clothes for the first time. They may not do it neatly but admire their efforts anyway. 

7. Use Some Non-verbal Reinforcements

Sometimes, you can use non-verbal reinforcements, such as hugs, smiles, high five, clapping, or tapping on the back. While you use non-verbal positive reinforcement, you should also have positive body language and facial expressions. Look at your child directly while you smilingly approve of their positive actions. 

8. Be Specific With the Praises

If you want your child to repeat the same positive behavior, you need to target positive reinforcements. So, clearly state the reason why you are praising your child. Your children will repeat the same actions to get your praise again. 

They may complete their homework on time or clean the room after playing. Use statements like, “I am proud you have finished your homework early” or “that was very considerate of you to clean your room today.”

9. Provide Timely Reinforcements 

The effectiveness of positive reinforcement depends on the timing of its delivery. You should reinforce a positive behavior either during its performance or right after the action is complete. 

Delayed positive reinforcements or acknowledgments do not affect a child’s behavior much. They may feel neglected and lose interest in doing positive behaviors to impress you. Therefore, it is essential to provide positive reinforcements at the right time.


Hopefully, you will find these tips on positive reinforcement for children quite helpful in developing positive behaviors in your children. If you want to stop your children from misbehaving, focus on reinforcing positive behavior. They will gladly act positively once they feel valued and appreciated.

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