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Positive Reinforcement and Mindfulness for Children

When working on mindfulness with your child or children, there are some important key concepts to remember. One of them is that as you make mindfulness a daily practice, you never use punishment to coerce your child to join in with a mindfulness session. Instead, be like Now Cow from Kelly Caleb’s popular Now Cow books on mindfulness for children and use positive reinforcement.



What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is not a value statement meaning that the reinforcement is “good.” Positive reinforcement can be very bad if used the wrong way. For example, if every time your child cries, you give them a cookie, you are using positive reinforcement to encourage them to cry in order to get a cookie. Nobody would consider that a “good” idea.


Positive reinforcement simply means adding something to your child’s life that they like to encourage a behavior. The smart way to use it is to add something that is “good” when they do something that is deemed right or good behavior. For example, if your child wants a cookie, you can talk to them about healthy snacks. Then you can encourage them to ask politely for a healthy snack and reward them for asking politely, using “May I please,” by giving them the healthy snack. This positive reinforcement may also lead to finding a positive reinforcement for their learning to take “no” for an answer at times, too.


How Can I Use Positive Reinforcement With Mindfulness for Children?

As mentioned above, you never want to use punishment as an encouragement for children who don’t want to practice mindfulness at a certain time. This means you wouldn’t tell your child, “If you don’t practice mindfulness, we won’t have craft time afterward.” That would be punishment. If it is craft time, the child should be able to participate whether they chose to participate in mindfulness practice or not.


Positive reinforcement can be as simple as a welcoming smile or a thank you. You can tell your child it’s time for mindfulness practice. If they say they don’t want to do mindfulness, simply say okay, and continue to practice mindfulness on your own or with the other children. If they say yes, provide positive reinforcement by welcoming them with words and a smile and, if they are new to a mindfulness group, an introduction. It may not be a cookie, but the feeling of belonging and welcome is as good a treat to most children.


Where Can I Learn More About Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is a technique you can use with your child for a variety of situations, not just getting them to practice mindfulness. Kelly Caleb has a video that describes positive reinforcement in detail. You can also see positive reinforcement in action in her Now Cow books about mindfulness for children. A child raised on positive reinforcement is sure to be a much happier, more confident child than one raised on punishment, so learn about positive reinforcement as much as you can today.


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