The aim of this article is to offer some guidelines that promote positive education , involving parents, teachers and any professional working with children, providing an education based on the establishment of rules, clarification of limits, affection, preserving the rights of the child and of adults.

I will divide it into 3 blocks: how to encourage appropriate behaviors, how to decrease inappropriate behaviors, and how to help you be a positive child.

How to reinforce appropriate or pro-social behaviors

This involves selecting the desired or appropriate behaviours to be carried out by the child (example: doing homework at a certain time, brushing teeth, looking after the brother, leaving clothes in the basket…). To do this we use two techniques:

1. Positive Reinforcement

It is complimentary while performing appropriate behavior, social, verbal or playful rewards for doing something appropriate. For example: if he is quietly on the couch watching TV with his little sister, tell him “I love that you behave like that, you are a champion”, while giving him a tap on the shoulder.

These reinforcements must be carried out immediately, while you are doing it. We must use it both with behaviours that we consider correct and that the child carries out (to favour the fact that he continues to do so), and with new behaviours that do not exist in his behavioural repertoire. This will favour the increase of the frequency of an already existing behaviour, although at a low rate.

2. Point program

It consists of selecting the behaviours we want to increase (doing homework, writing in the diary, going out with friends, brushing teeth…). Once selected we will choose a booster for each of them . The ideal is to spend some time on pleasant activities (watching TV, computer, eating something he likes, playing with the child on something we know he loves…).

At first there must be immediacy between the realization of the desired behavior and the award . For this we can make a table that is a schedule of tasks. In the rows we would indicate the behaviours to be carried out, in the columns the days.

Every time you do one of these behaviours you must put a dot on it (it can be with a sticker, make a cross, colour it…), if you don’t do it, that box remains blank (avoid sad faces, negative points, red…).

If she forgets any of her assignments, you can remind her: “there’s something you could do to get another point and you’ve forgotten, see what’s on the schedule”. In the case of older children, instead of using a table, we could draw up a contract, with the conduct to be carried out and the corresponding bonus clause (prize) and sanction clause.

My advice is that if the child performs the task he receives the prize and if he does not the sanction is the deprivation of the prize . For example: “if you do your homework you will have free time to play; if you don’t do it you won’t get it”, “if you eat in 30 minutes you will get the dessert you like best; if you don’t eat in 30 minutes there will be no dessert”.

How can the frequency of inappropriate behaviour be reduced?

Below you can find strategies that try to minimize or reduce any disruptive or dysfunctional behavior.

1. Extinction

It consists of “ignoring” the child’s inappropriate behaviour (tantrums, anger, threats, insults). Telling him “don’t do it anymore”, “be quiet”, “I’m going to get angry”… is a way of paying attention to him, so he will keep on doing it.

We must remove the reinforcing consequence (attention) to the emission of the inappropriate behavior, so that the child learns the association between doing something inappropriate – not paying attention to it. We must ignore this type of verbalisations and behaviours and never give in to them .

2. Time Out

It consists of physically removing the child from the current space to move him/her to his/her room or another place , for a short period of time. It can also be the parents who withdraw from the place where the child is in case what I have said before is not feasible.

It will be done immediately to the dysfunctional behaviour , so that the child associates it directly with this action, with a neutral attitude, using a tone of voice as objective as possible, avoiding any attitude of anger, without scolding or shouting.

We will do it without establishing social interaction with him. In the case that the child asks why we do this, we will give him a concrete and unemotional explanation of the reason . We can take the child out of the reinforcing situation (for example, instigating him to go to his room and leave the room where he is hitting his brother), or eliminate the stimulus that causes the bad behaviour (for example, if the child starts throwing the food he doesn’t want to eat with a spoon, take the spoon away).

The application time will be approximately 5 minutes, never exceed 10 , and always with supervision. The child may return to the place where he was, or we may return to the place where the conflict has occurred when his behaviour at the last minute has been appropriate, trying not to do so while manifesting inappropriate behaviour such as shouting, threats, blows…

3. Overcorrection

The child “replaces” the damage done . He must practice the correct way to do the task or what he is asked to do. This technique is used in response to behaviour that causes damage or deterioration (for example: deliberately spilling milk on the table).

In these cases we must encourage the child to undo or repair the damage through positive behaviour (in this case by collecting spilt milk with a cloth). This may not be easy, but it is essential that the child takes responsibility , recognising what he has done, and resolving it as soon as possible.

If the child is reluctant to practice, you must help him perform the right actions with his hands (if he doesn’t want to pick up, take his hands and guide them as if they were those of a robot, picking them up and depositing them in the right place).

Ignore crying, tantrums or resistance , try to stay calm but firm until the task is finished or the child starts doing it alone. Let us not forget, once the task is finished, to praise and reinforce obedience.

How do you make the child positive?

How do you tell a child to do something? The instructions should be short, clear and specific .Give the commands one at a time, using positive phrases, to “do” (for example: “throw away the rubbish before you play the Wii”, instead of “you haven’t thrown away the rubbish yet, have you?)

We recommend phrases of the type “Si-then” in positive . For example: “if you do your homework you can go out”, “if you pick up your room you can watch TV”. If possible we will give you options to choose from (e.g. if you have to take a shower, you can choose whether to do it before or after studying, as long as you comply).

We have to praise her obedience and, as we see throughout the article, establish consequences for her. It’s useful to give warnings and useful reminders (for example: “when the news song plays you know you have to go to bed”). Parents, teachers or adults around the child should agree among ourselves, avoiding giving unnecessary or contradictory orders, without threatening the child (for example, an incorrect way would be: “Paul, when are you going to throw away the garbage”, “if you don’t behave well, I will have to punish you”, “is it so difficult to tidy your room?”…)

Using the guidelines seen above, we could say something like: “Paul, go and throw out the rubbish before you play Wii”, “if you play with your sister without making her cry, I’ll take you to the playground on the swings”, “if you tidy up your room, you can take the tablet”). Let’s practice the “where I said cost I prize” (for example: instead of “if you forget to brush your teeth I’ll forget to give you sweets”, we’ll say “if you brush your teeth after lunch, you’ll be able to eat sweets this afternoon”).

Helping You Think Positively

Negative thoughts (“I’m going to be bad”) produce a negative view of the child (“I’m bad”). For this reason we should try to avoid generalizations (“this time it didn’t go as well as yesterday” instead of “it went wrong”).

When we generalize (we use the whole, never, ever, always…), we create a label. The distortion of thought is an inappropriate way of thinking that generates a distorted vision of children who are preventing them from seeing reality, affecting negatively in their state of mind and in an unadjusted behaviour.

One way to help him is to offer him an alternative instead of judging (e.g.: If he makes a mistake in a game, we could tell him “look if you do it better”, instead of telling him “you did it wrong”, and not give him a chance to improve).

How to tell her what’s wrong

It involves issuing a positive expression before and after a negative expression , a complaint, a refusal or a request. By doing so, we soften the negative expression, and increase the probability that the receiver will hear the negative message clearly and with less annoyance.

Example: a student has done work that is below his usual performance, and you would not like him to slow down. According to this technique we could say something like: “the truth is that I am very happy with all your work, although this one I think has come out a little weak, but I am sure that the next one will be in line with the rest of the work of the whole course!

Children need to feel loved , and they also need to have limits in order to internalize and establish rules preventing non-compliance and future sanctions of these rules. Helping them to have a good image of themselves will be a source of positive emotions and actions according to their objectives, so we must avoid negative labels, specifying what they may have done wrong “this time” instead of “always” or “never”, providing them with an alternative or possible solution, always reinforcing what they do well.