“Catch ‘Em Being Good” — The Magic of Positive Reinforcement

Teen appreciate being appreciated, so give them positive reinforcement. 
Your teenager needs — and in fact, craves — positive reinforcement. While it might seem like he doesn’t care one way or the other – he does care, deeply. When you notice, mention and praise something he’s done that you like, it makes him feel good. When you don’t notice, he recognizes this oversight — and his mood will reflect that.

Positive Reinforcement Explained
Simply put, positive reinforcement is giving your teenager recognition for doing something right. It could be as simple as finishing his homework before dinner time or as significant as offering to take care of his younger siblings so you and your partner can go out for dinner. Positive reinforcement works best when it is given every time your teenager does something you appreciate.

“Catch” Your Teen Behaving Correctly
Look for opportunities to praise and reward your teenager — and do this every day. Compliment your teen as soon as you notice what she’s done. The positive reinforcement will be much more effective this way. Positive reinforcement works on your teen’s brain. When you acknowledge her positive behavior, she hears your thanks or praise. As she hears this, her brain releases feel-good hormones that cause her to feel happy. These hormones act on your teen’s brain and she wants more of that feeling, so, the next time an opportunity to do something for you comes up, she takes it.

Communicate Your Approval
It’s essential that you communicate your approval clearly. For example, you might say, “Mike, thank you for feeding the cat. I wasn’t sure I would make it home on time, and you took care of her needs. Excellent job!” This way, your son understands that you recognize his effort, even if you don’t reward him for feeding the cat. Decide with your partner when it’s appropriate to reward good behavior. This is dependent upon your family’s practices and beliefs — and also on the specific behavior you’re reinforcing.

You might decide to reward your teen for exhibiting certain behaviors. It isn’t necessary to give him a huge reward as reinforcement; for example, you could simply make your son’s favorite meal for dinner to show your approval of his clean room. The reward can vary according to the behavior you’re rewarding. You might say, “Because you watched your little sister while I was working overtime, you can have a friend spend the night this weekend.” This way, your teen doesn’t expect a reward — or a certain reward — every time he exhibits good behavior.