Between the ages of 4 and 9, you will begin to notice what activities delight your child the most and you can begin to use these to reward good behavior. This is not bribing a child to do what is right. Bribing is when a parent, desperate to have a misbehaving child stop what they are doing, offers something if they will stop. For example, a child is pitching a fit at the store and the parent offers, “If you stop screaming, I’ll get you some candy at the checkout.” That is reinforcing the fit and basically training the child to pitch fits to get what they want. The brain smart parent who wants to eliminate public battles such as fits in stores and wild behavior in restaurants, will detail for their child ahead of time what behavior they expect in simple, concrete terms, and will also tell them what the reward will be for achieving the desired behavior. For example, “At the restaurant we will talk with our inside voices, we will keep our food on the table and we sit quietly or color quietly while we wait for our food to come. The ones who can do this will get ice cream for desert. The ones who cannot will go to the car and sit with daddy (or mommy) while the rest of us enjoy our food.” If you have had a disastrous restaurant experience with your children, you will need to prepare for this scenario by having at least two adults at the restaurant and one prepared to sit in the car! The kids will test you on this, because they are not used to you speaking to them so specifically and then actually following through with what you say. It may take 2 or 3 embarrassing incidents at restaurants until your kids realize that you will actually pick them up kicking and screaming and go to the car. One of the important lessons here is that the misbehaving child is not going to ruin the outing for everyone.
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