“I’ve told you a hundred times!”

As a behavior analyst and parent coach, how many times have I heard a parent say this? A hundred? Probably. More? Most likely.

My response: “Then stop telling them!”

Parent: “Huh?!!”

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

In order for your child’s behavior to change, you must first change yours. Set your child up for success not by nagging them and telling them what to do hundreds of times.

Arrange consequences for their behaviors Consequences do not equal punishment. Consequences equal what follows a behavior.

Set things up so that your child receives positive reinforcement for doing whatever it is you keep telling them to do. Make sure the reinforcer is strong enough to motivate your child to follow through.

Give them the desired reinforcer for doing that thing you keep telling them to do!

“Get dressed. Put your clothes on. Get some clothes out. Where are your clothes? Time to get dressed…..”

How about we use the Premack principle to shorten this.

First get dressed, then you can ___(choose your own breakfast, choose a song to listen to, have some screen time, earn a sticker on your sticker chart, etc.).

The Premack principle is a research-based tool that can be used to increase desired behaviors. It’s simple, to the point, and cuts out the nagging. First __(do the task)__, then __(reinforcer)__. A reinforcer is more than a reward- it’s a reward that WORKS! By definition, a reinforcer increases that desired behavior in the future.

Using the consistent language of “First _____, then ____” lets your child know that something good is coming and that they have some control over the situation. They can choose to engage in that first behavior in order to get the then thing promised to them.

But we have to make sure the then is something they actually want to do or earn!

If they don’t get dressed, they don’t get the desired reinforcer.

The trick is finding that reinforcer that’s strong enough to increase the behavior of getting dressed on your own.

Quit nagging. Quit repeating yourself. How exhausting that is!

Set up some positive consequences for doing the desired behavior. Follow through.

Spend your breath on some praise for getting the job done, instead of telling your kids what to do 100 times!