• Why should I reward or praise my child’s behavior when it is expected?

    One common question I get asked in parent therapy sessions is

    “Why should I reward or praise my child’s behavior when it is expected?”

    When discussing the importance of rewards (which might be a tangible item, time to do something they enjoy doing, or verbal praise) with parents they understandably become frustrated because it seems strange to rewards something that is expected.

    Why is my child not behaving as expected? 

    What is expected in our society, is not always something that come naturally to each individual child. Even if it does come naturally to other children (or to you), it is not coming naturally your child, or they would have been doing it. There must be something about that behavior or task that is particularly unrewarding to your child, and the only way that we can change this pattern is by creating a space where it becomes rewarding to them.

    Is there something wrong with my child because they are not behaving as expected?

    Absolutely not. We are all different both in our biology AND our experiences. Your child simply has not found this behavior rewarding. It might be helpful to try to understand why. Sometimes this answer is obvious to us other times it will take a deeper understanding of your child. Regardless, there is nothing wrong with your child, there is simply a mismatch in societal or cultural expectations and the current behaviors they are participating in.

    Will I have to praise and reward wanted behaviors forever? 

    Not necessarily. Eventually, if it truly is an expected behavior in society, there is a strong likelihood that this behavior becomes naturally reinforcing and that you can fade out your rewards as the child starts to realize how beneficial the behavior is.

    Will my child change their behaviors when they move our or go to college?

    This depends. Environment plays a huge role in motivation. Chances are, if your teen struggles with cleaning their room they might not struggle in their dorm due to social motivating factors. Simply put, there’s a lot more motivation to clean your dorm room then your childhood bedroom. Other times these behavioral patterns won’t change and it’s really important to catch them early, get a better understanding of them, and help your child find a way to navigate and build a new pattern that works for them and you.

    I need help navigating my child’s behavior difficulties! What do I do.

    You can call us for a free 15 minute consultation. As you might already be seeing from this blog, changing behavioral patterns is incredibly individualized and is not “one size fits all.” A parent therapist is a guide that will help you get to the bottom of these behaviors, understand them, and change them over time. We will be coaching you throughout your journey every step of the way.

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