Sample Reward-Rule-Consequence Scenarios
Now you have the tools to put into action for three-to-five-year-olds. The structure in a preschooler's environment should still be very positive and focused primarily on rewards. In addition, you can now start to develop your child's conscience.
How to Reward Good Behavior
With children of this age group, you still need to use immediate rewards, however, you can start to use immediate rewards that build and can be “cashed in” for bigger — but not too big — tangible rewards. Take this one in baby steps: children of this age group can learn to delay gratification for a little while, but not forever, and big rewards aren't as effective as small and medium-sized ones.
Again, start with one or two specific positive behaviors you'd like to see more of, like saying “please” and “thank you,” picking up toys, or going to bed without a fuss. Set up one of two rewards programs:
For behaviors you'd like to see throughout the day, a sticker program like the one for toddlers, but which has a better prize for every five stickers is effective. Five stickers can equal a “date” with Mom or Dad, an extra story at night, or choosing the dinner menu.
For behaviors you'd like to see more of once a day, such as picking up toys or eating vegetables, use the daily fun activities to your advantage: you can watch TV after you've picked up your toys; you can have dessert after you've eaten your vegetables. It's key that the rewards are given the same day, preferably immediately, in order to be effective.
Explain the rewards to your child, and that they are effective immediately. In addition, remember that your praise, hugs, and attention are huge motivators for your child, so pile them on when you see the behaviors you want, and you'll get more of them!
How to Decrease Problem Behaviors
On the other hand, there are other behaviors you'll need to decrease, and time out is still most effective, so you can follow the consequences outlined in the previous chapter. As a reminder, be sure to let all of your child's earned rewards stand. Once a reward has been earned or a sticker placed on the chart, do not take it away, or your child could become very upset and increase defiant behavior. Finally, remember to make only rules you can enforce, and then enforce them vigilantly.