Discovering Your Child’s Currency and Using It to Create Positive Change

Influencing a child to make the right choices regarding his behavior can be a challenge, especially when the child in question is a particularly strong-willed one. Often, the most effective method of bringing about change is determining a child’s individual currency and using it as an incentive to motivate him to make the right choices.

What is Currency?

While your first thought at the word “currency” may be along the lines of allowances and kids’ finances, currency as a behavioral concept actually has nothing to do with money in most cases. Each child has their own form of currency, whether it’s a hobby, activity or favorite toy. The desire to engage in these activities or play with a favorite toy can be very strong, making it a useful tool when he’s misbehaving. The things that he wants and desires the most are seen as his particular currency.

How Do I Discover His Currency?

No one knows your child like you do. This intimate knowledge of his fears, joys and favorite things makes you one of the only people who can reliably discover his currency. Younger children may value sweet snacks or a favorite television show greatly, while older ones may focus more strongly on socialization and participation in a favorite activity. Paying close attention to your child will help you quickly uncover what it is that motivates him, which is the first step to bringing about positive change in his behavior or attitude using a currency system.

How Do I Use My Child’s Currency?

If your child’s currency is a video game, for instance, you may find that his behavior is more quickly and thoroughly modified when the amount of time he can spend playing that game is jeopardized. Similarly, knowing that a good performance could help him gain more time to spend playing could provide him with the incentive he needs to behave better. A system of rewards and consequences based around the activity, hobby or outcome that your child desires most can be a very effective way of helping him to understand cause and effect in relation to his own behavior.

Rewards and Consequences

When the ability to play a game, engage in a hobby, or spend time with friends is directly tied to your child’s behavior, it puts him in control. His decisions and the way he chooses to behave effects the outcome of any given situation. Being able to make these decisions on his own and either reap the rewards of making the right choice or suffer the consequences of a poor one not only helps him understand that everything he does has an eventual result, but also satisfies a burgeoning urge to assert his independence.

Intangibles Can Be Currency, Too

Some children are mostly driven by a desire to play their favorite sport, watch a beloved television show, or stalk the opposition in a video game. Others, however, are motivated more by a desire to be praised, acknowledged and shown affection. Making sure that you satisfy this need any time your child behaves in accordance with the guidelines you’ve put in place will allow him to connect making the right choice with receiving that attention. Don’t be hemmed in to thinking that your child’s currency is restricted to physical toys, games or other items.

Be Cautious With Food as Currency

Instilling good dietary habits in your child is one of the most important things you can do for him as a parent. With childhood obesity rates and related health risks skyrocketing, it’s important to think carefully about the way you use food as currency. Children who learn to connect unhealthy snacks with the emotional payoff of a job well done are being sent conflicting messages; on the one hand, they’re taught to avoid unhealthy food items, but then they’re conversely being encouraged to accept these same foods as a reward for good behavior. Associating unhealthy foods with specific feelings and moods during childhood can cause your child to reach for those foods during times of distress as an adult to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain; emotional dependence on food can have far-reaching implications.

Because no two children are the same, the currency approach to rewards and consequences can help you to tailor disciplinary measures to each individual youngster in your home, rather than taking a less-effective one-size-fits-all approach. Taking the time to uncover your kids’ currency and dedicating yourself to using it as a method of affecting change may not always be easy, but it will help you reverse problem behaviors while rewarding those that you approve of.

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