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  • Writer's pictureSarah Lewis, M.Ed., BCBA

Parenting Positively

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in shaping behavior, and as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), I highly recommend parents utilize it in their parenting approach. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding a desired behavior to encourage its repetition in the future. Here are some tips and strategies for using positive reinforcement effectively with your child:


Children having a positive impact on the Sauk Valley community

Identify desired behaviors

The first step in using positive reinforcement is identifying the desired behaviors you want to encourage in your child. This could be anything from completing a chore to using polite language. Make a list of these behaviors and prioritize them based on what you think is most important, bonus points if this is something you'd like to see instead of a specific maladaptive behavior.


M&Ms as positive reinforcement for prosocial behavior in ABA therapy

Choose the right rewards

Next, you'll need to choose appropriate rewards for each desired behavior. Rewards can vary depending on your child's age and interests. For example, young children might respond well to stickers, extra playtime, or a special treat, while older children might prefer privileges like screen time or the opportunity to spend time with friends.


Involved mother playing with children near 61021

Deliver rewards consistently

Consistency is key when using positive reinforcement. Make sure you deliver the rewards immediately after the desired behavior occurs, and be consistent with the type and amount of reward you give. This will help your child understand the relationship between their behavior and the reward.


Dad providing autistic son social praise for appropriate play behavior

Be specific with your praise

When you praise your child, be specific about what they did well. For example, instead of just saying "good job," say "I'm proud of you for putting your toys away without being asked." This helps your child understand exactly what they did right and encourages them to repeat the behavior in the future.


Special needs child having fun and learning

Keep it fun

Positive reinforcement should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your child. Try to make it a positive experience by being enthusiastic and celebratory when your child earns a reward. This will help your child associate positive feelings with the desired behavior and encourage them to repeat it in the future.


Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for shaping behavior in children. By identifying desired behaviors, choosing the right rewards, delivering rewards consistently, being specific with your praise, using positive reinforcement alongside other strategies, and keeping it fun, parents can effectively use positive reinforcement to encourage positive behaviors in their child. Remember, consistency and positivity are key, and with patience and persistence, positive reinforcement can be a successful tool in helping your child reach their full potential.


Disclaimer: this post does not contain treatment recommendations as a professional relationship has not been established. For children whom the Autism Center has not directly observed, there is not enough information to make any specific treatment recommendation as treatment recommendations would be based on a subjective report of the child’s behavior. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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