Encouraging your child’s positive behavior is much more pleasant than responding to negative behavior. You hate being the one to always say, “Don’t do that,” “Stop that right now” or “If you don’t stop, I’m going to…” If every other word out of your mouth seems to include correcting your preschooler, you might consider positive reinforcement instead.
Role-play is an effective way to help your child learn and reinforce behaviors. “What would you do if Mommy forgot to feed you? Would you think I loved you?” you ask your preschooler. You can use his answer to remind him to feed the dog by saying, “So Princess knows you love her when you remember to feed her.” Alternatively, you might have him pretend to be you and ask him, “How would you act when I clean up my room or remember to clean my shoes before I come inside?” Praise his answers and the resulting behavior with specifics, such as, “Thanks for remembering to clean your shoes.”
Your boss pays you an incentive for getting your work done — a paycheck. The same behavior can work with your preschooler. Pay her an allowance and deduct money for work not done by saying, “You made $1.50 this week for getting your chores done. I would have paid you $2.00, but you forgot to feed and water the dog, so I paid myself instead because I had to do it.” If you can’t afford an allowance, use stickers, trips to the park, a night when she gets to pick the activity or time to talk to Grandma on the phone.
Children’s books can reinforce many positive behaviors. For example, “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food” reminds your child to choose healthy snacks and “The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners” reminds your child to use manners. You can read the story, asking questions along the way, such as, “What food should he choose?” or “How would you act now?” before you reveal the choice made by the bears. Praise correct answers and offer hints to steer him in the correct direction if his answer isn’t correct. Alternatively, you can make up a story with your child as the main character and ask him what he should do next. If your child enjoys theater, you might use puppets to tell the story to keep your child actively engaged.
You can tell your child, “Say ‘Good morning’ to Mrs. Adams,” and then praise her when she complies. If she holds your hand to cross the street, you can say, “Thank you for holding my hand. I didn’t have to remind you this time.” You might stage a game of Simon Says or Follow the Leader and offer praise when she meets or exceeds your leading. Offer stickers, a hug or a high-five for a perfect game.