Positive Reinforcement in Teenagers

by Kathryn Hatter

    Teenagers might need special incentives to learn skills, develop responsibility and make positive decisions about their conduct. One effective way to encourage the behaviors you want is to use the behavior management technique of positive reinforcement. Through positive reinforcement, you gradually make it more likely that your teenager will demonstrate the desired behaviors.

    Goals of Positive Reinforcement

    The beauty of positive reinforcement is that it teaches and motivates specific behaviors by using items or activities that appeal to your teenager, states Shannon Baranski, psychology professor with the Houston Community College. Instead of punishing your adolescent by taking away an item or a privilege, you harness the psychological power of a powerful incentive to encourage him to cooperate or perform.

    Examples of Positive Reinforcement

    Many forms of encouragement or motivation can serve as positive reinforcement with a teenager. If your teenager likes to use the car, tell her she’s welcome to use it after she finishes her chores. If your teenager has her eye on a new pair of boots, encourage a boost in school performance by promising a new pair of boots. If your teenager likes spending time on the computer, institute nightly computer time after she finishes her homework. Positive reinforcement could also be as simple as a pat on the back and a compliment about working hard at school, according to Education.com.

    Ways to Institute Positive Reinforcement

    You might give your child some incentive for the desired behaviors by informing her of the item or activity you plan to use for the positive reinforcement. Tell your teenager at the beginning of the new semester that if she brings home an A in math, she’ll get a trip to her favorite store. Another method that might suit your circumstances is surprise your teenager after she does something that you want to encourage. For example, if your teenager goes above and beyond with her chores, extend curfew by 30 minutes as a surprise reward. Surprise rewards can also motivate more of the desired behavior.

    Negative Reinforcement

    Negative reinforcement might seem similar to positive reinforcement. Instead of giving your child an item or a privilege with a desired behavior, however, you remove or rescind something negative when your child performs a desired behavior, states Baranski. For example, if your teenager doesn’t like you calling him on his cellphone to remind him to complete chores, stop the calls immediately when your teen works diligently to complete his chores on time.

    About the Author

    Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator and regular contributor to "Natural News." She is an accomplished gardener, seamstress, quilter, crocheter, painter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator and she enjoys technical and computer gadgets. Hatter's Internet publications specialize in natural health and she plans to continue her formal education in the health field, focusing on nursing.

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