When working with parents, I’m often asked things like, “How do I get my child to clean up, eat vegetables, share, follow directions, or be kind?” My go-to response has always been the Premack Principle, commonly known as Grandma’s Rule. Simply put, Grandma’s Rule is a system of reinforcement where a less probable behavior (eating vegetables), is paired with a more probable behavior (eating dessert). To break this down even further, we call this technique “first-then”. First, you must eat your vegetables, and then, you may have dessert.
Instilling intrinsic motivation in our children is not an easy undertaking once they learn to say “no” and begin developing autonomy. Children are motivated from within to play, explore, discover, seek attention, eat, sleep and love. We provide extrinsic motivation with attention, verbal prompts, praise and rewards. With daily routines in place, children know what to expect and what is expected of them. Routines make children feel stable, safe and calm. Age-appropriate tasks should be part of a child’s day. For example, a 3-year-old can begin to help with cleaning up toys and a 5-year-old will most likely know where to put them. Giving children personal responsibility and accountability for their behavior, fosters independence and growth.
One of our most valuable teaching tools as parents is modeling. If we remember that little eyes and ears see and hear everything we do, why not demonstrate daily the best behavior we can?
Diana Diduck, M.S., BCBA, LPC