How do you train kids to behave?
Hopefully no one will take offense at me comparing training kids to training my dog, but house training our Teddy reminded me of the power of positive reinforcement.
As first time dog owners, we had to learn to house train our little puppy by trial and error. We listened to people, read articles, and even signed up for doggie training at our local Pet Smart… but the results were discouraging. Months into him joining our family, I was secretly thinking of giving him away because of being weary of cleaning up the unpleasant “gifts” he was leaving around the house. (Though, I knew that wasn’t really an option if I wanted to keep living in house!)
Then we had a break through. A friend told me – give up scolding him or correcting him when he messes up. (He can’t understand you anyway.) Instead, when he does do his business outside where you want him to, CELEBRATE it to the MAX! So when he did it right, we jumped up and down, we clapped and cheered yelling “GOOD TEDDY.” Basically, the advice was go overboard with positive re-enforcement and he’ll do agian whatever he did to get that positive attention. We did this despite being a little embarrassed when neighbors gave us funny looks during our celebrations.
The result: He was house trained within a week.
When it comes to children, I wouldn’t say we should drop correction or explaining expectations – but I will say we need to go nuts with positive reinforcement. Find ways to reward and CELEBRATE when kids get it right. Make that your primary strategy.
What does this look like? Theories are great, but I know practical examples are better. We just launched a new Wednesday evening club. It’s called BLAST Zone because we want kids to have a blast at church. We have a LOT of kids – control and order are very challenging when you struggle for volunteers, have spacing issues, and are dealing with kids who are tired at the end of their long day.
So I asked each group to choose a “Dynamite Kid” of the evening. Then, at the end in our closing they are announced and brought up on stage to be celebrated! We take their picture and they get some fun Rock Candy that says “You Rock” on it as well as some POP Rocks, which every kid loves!
I also equipped all my volunteers with “Caught Being Good” coins that they can give out anytime they “catch” a kid being good! If they manage to collect 10 of these, they will be able to trade them in for a bigger prize!
In addition to rewarding good behavior, a struggling kid can be rewarded for a change in attitude, or an apology – instead of being scolded or punished for what they did wrong.
Kids will make mistakes… (as do we!) The goal is to have grace and focus on the positive – what did they do RIGHT instead of what did they do wrong.
So, if you want to see better behavior from your kids, how are you CELEBRATING SUCCESS?