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Why parents should practice positive reinforcement

Posted September 25

A British children’s book author and illustrator found a creative way to exhibit positive reinforcement by illustrating Post-its and sneaking them into his daughter Poppy’s lunchbox. It's one of many ways parents can practice positive reinforcement with their children. (Deseret Photo)

Sometimes kids simply need an encouraging push from their parents.

So Rob Biddulph, a British children’s book author, illustrator and father, stepped up his game by hiding creative, encouraging notes in his daughter Poppy’s lunchbox, The Huffington Post reported.

For the past three years, Biddulph has surprised Poppy with different designs, which helped her make the transition from nursery (kindergarten) to primary school (elementary) when she would have to stay at school for lunch.

Now, over 600 Post-its later, Poppy is hooked on her #packedlunchpostit and refuses to even eat school meals.

Poppy has undergone what is referred to as positive reinforcement, an action that helps children feel good about their choices, motivating them to increase behaviors that bring rewards, according to the Livestrong Foundation.

For Poppy, her dad’s imaginative drawings have encouraged her to eat her lunch and experience her father’s love even when he was not at school with her.

While Biddulph may be in the running for parent of the year, parents don’t need to be talented illustrators to use positive reinforcement effectively.

Forms of positive reinforcement can vary in shape and form, but the most common are verbal words of affirmation or tangible motivators, Livestrong explained on its wellness website. Social recognition or pleasurable activities such as going out to a movie, getting an ice cream cone, getting a new toy or going to be at a later bedtime can also reinforce behavior.

These rewards are part of a process that results in an increase in the likelihood of desired behavior or response in the child, according to a book and website on positive reinforcement for kids.

According to Kids Making Change, a parenting website, positive reinforcement allows the children to grow more confident, self-reliant and independent.

Bridget Sizer, a contributor to PBS Parents, elaborated on how positive reinforcement can be used in disciplining a child. She said that parental attention, time and verbal encouragement are the most effective tools parents can use to enhance desirable child behavior.

Although some parents may believe too much positive attention may spoil their child, graduate research done by Purdue University says positive attention will make a child want to be good so he or she can have support from the parents.

Parents should be careful not cross the line to bribery. Giving bribes can be confusing to children, leading them to think they should only do the right thing when "paid," researchers said.

Vanderbilt University developmental psychology blog stated that positive reinforcement cannot sustain development without consistency — an element Biddulph has practiced with his daughter’s lunchbox Post-its.

Email: solson@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sether00ski

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