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Tween Discipline Issue1234

Positive Consequences

Studies show that parents who balance the use of positive and negative consequences when responding to their children’s behaviors are seen as more fair and reasonable by their children. Acknowledging your child’s positive behaviors with praise or a positive consequence makes it more likely they will continue those behaviors. In fact, we recommend that parents try to praise their children four times as often as they correct them (the 4-to-1 rule). If you consistently use positive consequences, then you'll probably be more pleasant and effective with your children, and they will be more likely to listen to you.

One of the fundamentals we teach parents at Boys Town is to try to “catch children being good.” It’s easy to recognize bad behavior. After all, bad behavior gets noticed right away. Good behavior, on the other hand, is expected, so when your tween uses it, you’re less likely to notice. That means that unless you condition yourself to look for good behavior (catch them being good), you’re likely to issue only negative consequences. The result of ​this could be that your tween tries to avoid you because they see you as focusing only on their mistakes.

Recognizing positive actions and issuing appropriate positive consequences, on the other hand, can not only reinforce behaviors you want your child to use but also make the negative consequences you give seem fairer in their eyes and thus more effective.

So, the next time your tween cleans their room or takes out the garbage when asked, try simply praising them. You could say, “Thanks for taking out the trash; I really appreciate it.” Or you could up the ante by saying, “Since you took out the trash without me asking, you’ve earned an extra 15 minutes of TV time tonight.” Be careful, though. If you issue rewards for expected behavior all the time, your child will come to expect them, and they’ll no longer be special.

Over time, you can dial back the rewards until the satisfaction of doing a job well or accomplishing a goal becomes the reward. This is known as “fading,” and it allows you to free up certain tangible rewards — like the 15 extra minutes of screen time mentioned earlier — for other positive behaviors you observe.

Teaching Activity

Joy Cards

Joy cards are a fun way to issue positive consequences; they’re simply notecards with the name of a reward printed on them. You can give your tween a joy card whenever you “catch them being good.” We’ve created a bunch of cards​ you can download, print and give out when your tween uses a positive behavior. Of course, these are only suggestions; we encourage you to create your own joy cards and tailor them to your tween’s individual interests and likes. In fact, it might be even more fun to have your tween create some cards, too. (Seeing what rewards they come up with also can give you a bit of an insight into your tween’s ever-changing brain.)

Social Skill

Doing Good Quality Work

As you issue positive consequences for positive behavior, you’ll notice that your child will become motivated to do better at just about everything they attempt. To help them reach that point faster, you can share with them the following simple steps for the skill of Doing Good Quality Work:

  1. Find out the exact expectations or instructions for the task.
  2. Gather the necessary tools or materials.
  3. Carefully begin working. Focus your attention on the task.
  4. Continue working until the task is complete or the criteria are met.
  5. Examine the results of your work to make sure it was done correctly.
  6. Correct any deficiencies, if necessary, and check back with the person who assigned the task.

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