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Affirmative Discipline: How to Help Your Child Improve Behavior and Have Fun at the Same Time

By Winsome Coutts

Is it possible to discipline your child and make it a fun process for both of you? Amazingly, yes. Using the technique of affirmative discipline, you can modify and eliminate unwanted behaviors while increasing good behavior habits. How does this little miracle work?

First you and your child need to talk over the behavior that most needs targeting. Do this when you are feeling good with one another, not during or right after misbehavior. Work on one behavior at a time. Explain why it causes trouble and how you’d like her to behave. Ask her how she feels about the behavior, and if she’d like to learn to give it up. Typically your child will be as distressed by the behavior as you are, but simply finds the habit hard to break.

Tell your child you’ve found a way to help kids break bad habits, and that you can work on this together if she’d like to. Decide together what the new ideal behavior will be. If the problem is that she interrupts conversations constantly, don’t make the target behavior that she never interrupts again. That would be unrealistic, and probably unachievable. Better to make the goal something like interrupting no more than 4 times during dinner hour, then perhaps extending the goal to no more than 4 times during the evening.

Next explain that this new strategy rewards good behavior. Ask what sort of reward she would find motivating. Brainstorm together a variety of ways to celebrate success, writing down each idea as it comes up. Tell your child you need to think of rewards that are free or don’t cost much money. Make some suggestions of your own: staying up late one night, getting an ice cream cone or pizza, getting a sticker, riding bikes together, making a cake, getting a small new toy, and so forth.

Different things will motivate different kids, and kids of different ages, so pay attention to what rewards your child acts most enthusiastic about. After you finish brainstorming, decide together on one (or more) rewards as your final selection.

Next write down exactly what behavior is required in order for the reward to be learned. This should include when, how often and for how long the behavior is to be performed. Both you and your child should sign this paper and date it when you’re finished. Explain that this represents a commitment from your child to work for the new behavior and a commitment from you to provide the agreed-on reward when he has earned it.

It’s often a good idea to structure rewards within rewards. For instance, if the behavior you want to target is not interrupting, you might give him a foil star or sticker on a chart you make and post in his room – one star or sticker for every dinner hour he gets through the meal with no more than 4 interruptions. At the end of any week where at least 5 stars or stickers have been earned (for 5 days out of 7), you can structure in a bigger reward, like going out for ice cream or pizza.

Be very specific – is it going to be pizza or ice cream? Or ice cream one week and pizza the next? You want to define how often behaviors must occur for the reward to be merited, and what the reward will be and when it will be delivered. Then, of course, you need to stick to this promise.

Set a timeline for how long the exercise will go on: 3 weeks may be a good number. After that time, sit down to discuss together how it’s going, whether the child would like to keep working on that behavior, would like a new habit to target, or would like to take a break.

By rewarding your child for doing the right thing, you establish a positive mindset that makes it easy to learn good behaviors and unlearn bad ones. Her success and the rewards that go with it help her develop self-trust and give her the confidence to attempt still greater goals.

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Winsome Coutts is the passion behind the new self help authority site, www.4lifeselfhelp.com. She is a lifelong student of personal development, meditation and goal setting. In the pursuit of her own dreams, she has created www.4lifeselfhelp.com as a tool to help others find success and happiness along with resources to live an abundant life.

Visit www.4lifeselfhelp.com today to take advantage of their resource library, free articles, resource tools and guidance.

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