Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Behavior Tools: Motivators Part 1

Developing impulse control and patience can be difficult for young children. When they want something, they usually want it NOW. That is definitely something to keep in mind when working with kids, because most often the kids who struggle with appropriate behavior are especially impulsive, and have difficulty delaying gratification.  Just think about how hard it is for these kids to wait before eating a marshmallow...

The kids in this video were motivated by the promise of receiving a second marshmallow, if they waited to eat the first one. Most kids were successful, some faltered a little bit, and one or two simply could not wait at all. In the same way, a classroom full of students will have similar dynamics: most of them have the basic skills that they need to behave successfully, even if they might make mistakes every once in awhile. But there will always be a small percentage of kids who need additional behavior support, and one reason for that might be exactly what is illustrated in this video: some kids can't wait and control their impulses.

This knowledge should guide the way that we implement positive reinforcement, motivators, and rewards with young children, especially in a classroom. For the majority of a class, working to earn a big class reward over a period of time will be mostly effective. But that kind of motivator doesn't work for that small percentage of kids that need more behavioral support- the delay of gratification is too long and therefore their motivation to control their impulses for such a reward is very small.

Although it can be a bit time consuming in a classroom, these students can greatly benefit from personalized motivators or interventions that have shorter intervals with small rewards that eventually build up to a big reward. Next time, I will share some motivation ideas that I am trying in my classroom this year that exemplify this concept. (I am looking at this idea from a classroom standpoint, but this idea can also be applied to helping an individual child at home!)

Behavior Tools is a series about understanding and managing behavior with young children. The more we understand children and their behavior, the better we are able to teach them how to make good choices and build a solid foundation of self worth and confidence. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to helping a child learn appropriate behavior, which is why we need a lot of different tools and strategies to draw upon when we work with young children. 

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