These are notes from a Coursera lecture series entitled Everyday Parenting – The ABCs of Child Rearing.
Lecture one: Praise
Doctor Kazdin suggests using effusive (his word) praise immediately after a child’s behavior in order to reinforce that behavior. For instance, I should say M, great job putting on your outside clothes quickly! While having tone of voice rise with excitement and gesturing with my hands. This should be followed by a light, kind touch like a hug, kiss, high five or whatever. (I am not good at effusive praise because I think praise should match the task completed. Effusive praise for getting on outside clothes seems condescending.)
Lecture two: Antecedents
Doctor Kazdin suggests that using antecedents can make behavior either more or less likely to occur depending on the content of the antecedent. For instance, if you started a sentence with “If you really loved me…” it makes the child less likely to obey. Antecedents should be used strategically. There are three types of antecedent that change behavior.
The first type he names “prompts.” They are instructions that ask or tell someone to do something. Often, it’s best for that prompt to be specific. For instance the verbal prompt “I want you to brush your teeth,” could then be followed up with a physical prompt of leading the child to her toothbrush.
The second type of antecedent he calls “positive setting events,” and the third “negative setting events.” Following a positive antecedent a child is more likely to behave and she is less likely to behave after a negative antecedent. These can be subtle like tone of voice or facial expression. Ordering a child to do something with a frown on your face is a negative antecedent. Whenever possible, use a gentle tone of voice. If you are far away, come closer so that you don’t have to yell across a room.
Providing a child a choice may also help the child to behave. For instance, a choice of what to wear when you tell them to get dressed. “Please put on one of these two shirts.”
Dr. Kazdin suggests using the word “please” as an antecedent, though he says many parents don’t like using “please” with their children. (I’m not sure why parents would feel that way, but ok.)
Another way of encouraging a child to behave is to offer help. Once the behavior is started, help can be slowly withdrawn and praise can be given to the child for starting the behavior on her own.
He also suggests challenging a child by saying “I bet you can’t do that again. No child could do that until they’re all grown up.” (This, like the effusive praise, seems a bit too condescending to me and I would feel fake doing it.)