A VIDEO on TikTok recently went viral after life hack influencer Shari Jonas revealed her easiest parenting advice for disciplining kids.
The inspirational creator discussed two key ways to discipline children; she explained one as negative stimuli, or punishment and the other as positive stimuli, or reward.
She explained that both can be effective but reminded viewers that not all children respond the same way and each parent has to decide what’s the best form of discipline for their child.
In the video, Shari said: “My son was always that kid that was always getting into trouble, he was the s*** disturber, the more attention he got, the happier he was.
“What the teachers always did was punish him, they would put him in the corner, move his desk across the room, even send him to the principal’s office, but nothing worked.
“So, I suggested we try another approach: REWARD. Each time my son had an exceptional day, he received a gold sticker. No humiliating punishments and no shunning.
“Pride of ownership. When your kid comes home at the end of the week with a booklet full of gold stars. And, we were BOTH proud!”
If you’re struggling to weigh up the pros and cons between negative stimuli and positive stimuli, we’ve spoken to some experts to see if Shari’s parenting advice really works.
Licensed child psychologist at online tutoring platform GoStudent, Lisette Kuijt, said the video taps into the field of Behavioural Therapy.
This is the umbrella term that covers psychology where punishment and reinforcement are used in order to modify behavior.
Lisette explained that in behavioural therapy, there are four main strategies for responding to a problem behaviour.
These are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and positive punishment.
She said: “In Shari’s video, she states that not every child responds the same way to these techniques.
“Strictly speaking, that’s true – but the response depends mostly on the motivation of the behaviour, and not on the personality of the child.
“To decide which of the strategies you should pick for the child whose behaviour you would like to change, you have to find out the motivation for the problem behaviour first.”
Applied Behaviour Analysis identifies four types of motivation that can be used to change a behavior: sensory satisfaction, escape, attention and the desire to have access or control over a desired object.
To decide which of the strategies you should pick for the child whose behaviour you would like to change, you have to find out the motivation for the problem behaviour first
To help identify the motivation, psychologists write down “ABC’s” of the problem behaviour.
Note the circumstances that led to the behaviour.
Write down the exact behavior the child displayed for the B (behaviour).
Write down the consequences for the B (behaviour).
You will be able to see the reasons your child behaves as they do.
Lisette added: “The child from the TikTok video was showing problem behaviour because he liked the attention he got from his classmates and the teacher when acting in that way.
“As a consequence, the teacher ‘rewarded’ him with more attention by publicly punishing him. The child has no reason to stop this behaviour – he is getting what he wants.”
As Shari states, Lisette explained parents can use tactics of reinforcement and punishment to modify Behaviour.
Positive reinforcement is when you reward the child with something that they like to encourage their alternative behavior. This reward could be as simple as a sticker or a gold star.
Negative reinforcement is when you remove a dislikable item or activity. This reduces the chance of it affecting the situation and increases the chances of you achieving the desired behaviour.
Lisette continued: “In punishment, you use a stimulus to decrease problem behaviour.
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“In positive punishment, you add an undesirable stimulus as a result of the behaviour, such as scolding the child when they talk when they should be silent.
“In negative punishment, you take away a desirable object or activity as a result of the behaviour.
“An example would be if a child has to stay inside when their classmates can go play outside.”
LISETTE’S DO’S AND DON’TS
- The changing of behaviour takes time. Don’t expect miracles
- When you are using a reinforcing technique, you have to find a reward that the child is interested in, otherwise it will not work. Each child will have a different approach. You could use different stickers to help the teacher or write compliments with a colored pen. It is always a good idea to ask your child or parents what they want!
- You can take small steps! Use reinforcement to reward children who show the desired behaviour for a short time (e.g., one lesson or an hour).
- When you feel it is time, you can increase the reward time. Talk to your child about this and praise their progress.
Elsewhere co-founder of Perfectly Autistic Hester Grainger said when it comes to discipline, parents often fall into two camps – pro punishment or pro reward.
The mum-of-two, who’s nine-year-old and 11-year-old are autistic and have ADHD, said parents usually follow one or the other disciplining technique.
She said: “When it comes to punishment or negative stimuli, it might mean that when a child has done something naughty or disruptive they are put in a time out, told to sit in the corner, or have their toys or devices taken away from them.
“Pro reward or positive stimuli is when a child is praised or rewarded for their good behaviour.
“The reward can be anything positive from being told they are great, collecting stickers for a sticker book such as in this Tik Tok video, or having an extra 10 minutes watching TV.”
CARROT AND THE STICK
Do you dangle a carrot in front of a donkey to get them to move forward, hoping that they will get the carrot, or do you hit the donkey with a stick to get them to move?
Hester explained that while some children may respond better to being given time outs or to having their time off, the main thing to do with any punishment is to find the root cause.
She explained that the Tiktok mum quickly realised that even though her son’s behaviour wasn’t acceptable, that there was a better way to manage it.
When it comes to discipline, it’s good to focus on the behaviour you want to change, not the child, which is what this Tik Tok video shows.
Hester said: “When my children were younger, I would never say they were naughty, I would say that their behaviour was naughty. This language is vastly different.
“No child starts out in life wanting to be naughty, but they quickly realise that by doing naughty things gets a reaction and the attention they want, even if that is being shouted at or told off.”
The parenting expert explained that adults often expect children to be more responsible and less impulsive than their brains can manage.
But studies suggest that part of the brain responsible for self-control doesn’t fully mature until the end of adolescence.
Hester added: “Both of my children are autistic and have ADHD. I’ve recently learnt about how autistic people or those with ADHD can really struggle with executive function (how they plan, problem-solve, remember instructions, organise themselves and manage time etc).
“If a child has poor executive function it can mean that in these areas they behave up to three years younger than their actual age – which can affect behaviour.”
BEING A DETECTIVE
When it comes to bad behaviour it is worth thinking about what may have caused that, suggested Hester. She stated that she discovered the art of being a detective years ago.
It can seem that your child has just done something naughty out of the blue, but when you start looking closely, you may see that there is more to it than meets the eye and that their bad behaviour was them being overwhelmed by other events during the day.
She said: “By allowing children time to calm down, take a breath, can help everyone and they may even get a gold star for it!”
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