Good morning. I understand the frustration related to the parenting role and the line between attempting to motivate and encourage your child, but then they process it as "criticism." I have an 8 year old son, a 7 year old daughter, and a 19 year old step-son. Each all have learned at different rates and definitely need different forms of love and encouragement. One thing that helped me with each child, was discovering their "love language." Gary Chapman came up with the 5 love languages and these include: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. I actually take the time with each child or adolescent that comes into the clinic for services, to have them take the quiz so that I can understand what seems to encourage them. I am going to send you a link so that you can try it with your child! http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
You can have him to take quiz for ages 5-8. I really do think that this is helpful.
It sounds like you have been using a token economy type behavioral chart, which is a good option for reinforcing the positive behaviors. I remember doing that and it seemed to work for a while, but then the kiddos seemed to get bored with it. They no longer felt that the reward was worth the effort-- ouch! I felt a bit overwhelmed. Then I began letting them choose the activities that were to be the reward. It was almost like they earned their paycheck. The behaviors that were negative, were ignored (unless they were dangerous), and they only received affirmation or a reward, less punishment. They call this a reward system. I tried to focus more on reinforcing the positive behaviors. I turned my back at times, which sounds awful, to the negative behaviors, but this disallowed any attention to be given for the behaviors that I didn't want. Negative attention is still attention, and I didn't want to reinforce any attention for the misbehaviors. This is actually used in "child-centered play therapy models" when parents are working with their children to modify behaviors.
This is a pretty good article about positive reinforcement also.
Also understanding his developmental stage is important when it comes to what may be motivating his behaviors. According to the CDC, during ages 3-5 children really need the following for their emotional development:
- Continue to read to your child. Nurture her love for books by taking her to the library or bookstore.
- Let your child help with simple chores.
- Encourage your child to play with other children. This helps him to learn the value of sharing and friendship.
- Be clear and consistent when disciplining your child. Explain and show the behavior that you expect from her. Whenever you tell her no, follow up with what he should be doing instead. (so basically redirection)
- Help your child develop good language skills by speaking to him in complete sentences and using "grown up" words. Help him to use the correct words and phrases.
- Help your child through the steps to solve problems when she is upset.
- Give your child a limited number of simple choices (for example, deciding what to wear, when to play, and what to eat for snack).
And for ages 6-8, understanding that your little guy is working on autonomy and figuring out his own locus of control, this may help.
- Show affection for your child. Recognize his accomplishments.
- Help your child develop a sense of responsibility—ask him to help with household tasks, such as setting the table.
- Talk with your child about school, friends, and things he looks forward to in the future.
- Talk with your child about respecting others. Encourage him to help people in need.
- Help your child set his own achievable goals—he’ll learn to take pride in herself and rely less on approval or reward from others.
- Help your child learn patience by letting others go first or by finishing a task before going out to play. Encourage him to think about possible consequences before acting.
- Make clear rules and stick to them, such as how long your child can watch TV or when he has to go to bed. Be clear about what behavior is okay and what is not okay.
- Do fun things together as a family, such as playing games, reading, and going to events in your community.
- Get involved with your child’s school. Meet the teachers and staff and get to understand their learning goals and how you and the school can work together to help your child do well.
- Continue reading to your child. As your child learns to read, take turns reading to each other.
- Use discipline to guide and protect your child, rather than punishment to make him feel bad about himself. Follow up any discussion about what not to do with a discussion of what to do instead.
- Praise your child for good behavior. It’s best to focus praise more on what your child does ("you worked hard to figure this out") than on traits she can’t change ("you are smart").
- Support your child in taking on new challenges. Encourage him to solve problems, such as a disagreement with another child, on his own.
- Encourage your child to join school and community groups, such as a team sports, or to take advantage of volunteer opportunities.
I had to learn that when my kids were comfortable with a situation and ready to take on a task, they naturally would. My first born was very independent and strong-willed and my daughter is very passive and shy. Complete opposites. I had to change my expectations to fit with their personalities. I think that understanding his love language will be a large part of recognizing what he really needs. If he is in school, he may also be more motivated to keep up with tasks of peers. It may be that he isn't ready to be as autonomous as you would like. Like all plants/ seeds need different soil, amounts of water, or even sunlight, children are different too. He may just bloom differently than others. Focus on the affirmations and pointing out his strengths and I think his esteem will naturally boost!