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  • Feel Like You Need to Bribe Your Child to Behave? Try the 'Holen' Parenting Hack

    Are you properly using positive reinforcement for good behavior?
    by Rachel Perez .
Feel Like You Need to Bribe Your Child to Behave? Try the 'Holen' Parenting Hack
PHOTO BY iStock
  • As a parent, you will soon be familiar with the term positive reinforcement. It is a discipline tactic that involves giving praise or reward to encourage good behavior. Many parents swear this positive reinforcement works during toddler tantrums and meltdowns (at least most of the time). Experts caution, however, that there’s a fine line between positive reinforcement and that reward being like a bribe. Some say giving prizes in exchange for obedience is counterproductive as well.

    The goal of doling out positive reinforcement is to create a habit of the desired good behavior. But you don’t want your child to expect that he will get a reward each time he behaves or gets his chores done. You want him to imbibe good values without expecting anything in return (or else he becomes entitled). So how do you traverse that fine line and do positive reinforcement correctly?

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    One is to try not to offer material things, such as toys, as a reward. Opt for small tokens like...marbles, yes, our good ole' holen. Every time your child does a good deed or voluntarily helps with chores around the house, give him a marble to add in a jar. Once the jar is full, he gets a chance to get a surprise treat from the “mystery box” (make the treat an inexpensive one).

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    With this marble parenting hack, kids don’t get an “instant prize” for each good deed or chore done — it’s not a direct exchange. It’s similar to stickers on a chore chart; a child gets a reward when he completes his weekly tasks. Remember to lay down all the rules (e.g., which deeds or chores deserve a marble or two), so there is no misunderstanding. And stick to the rules! Do not dole out marbles on a whim. It will help you become consistent in reinforcing good behavior.

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    You can thank Hollywood celebrity couple Kristen Bell (she is the voice of Anna in Frozen) and Dax Shepard (he played Crosby Braverman on Parenthood). They use this tip on their two daughters, Lincoln, 6, and Delta Bell, 4. Dax was not sure it would work at first, but he is now a fan.

    “What shocked me is there’s less interest in the mystery box reward system as there is in just fulfilling the jar,” Kristen shared in an interview with The Bump. “Accumulating marbles has become such a sign of pride that they’ve honestly forgotten to cash in their marbles for a prize,” she added.

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    Another positive reinforcement guideline is to give children verbal encouragement. But giving kids too much praise can also give them a fixed mindset and shy away from challenges and lifelong learning. (You’ll want your child to develop a growth mindset. Read more about it here.) So stick to applauding your kid’s effort and hard work, not just the final outcome. When in doubt, describe your child’s artwork (e.g., how he used colors or strokes) or action (e.g., how he grouped his toys into big and small ones when packing away.)

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    Do you want to see more examples of how to use praise more effectively? Click here.

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