The Key To Reinforcing Positive Behaviors In Children and Teens
Have you ever had a “gut feeling” about something? Have you ever considered that children have these as well? Of course they do! The problem is, they don’t know how to express this to us. They know something doesn’t feel right, so they act out or exhibit a grumpy mood. The good news is, there is a way to boost their mood and reinforce positive behavior choices.
Serotonin, also known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, plays a part in our wellbeing and is important in balancing mood. Ninety percent of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in the gut. This is because the gut and the brain were developed from the same embryo cell line and continue to communicate through the vagus nerve. This explains why the gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and where the phrase “gut feeling” comes from.
In recent studies serotonin levels have been found to also affect memory and learning. In addition to this, it helps build new neuropathways in the brain which supports the ability to learn new information more quickly. When there are higher levels of serotonin, moods are better and, therefore, cognitive functioning is improved. The problem is found when serotonin levels are too low. In children, this can manifest in behaviors such as poor impulse control and inattention.
Now that we understand the neuroscience surrounding serotonin, how can we, as parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children, use this information? We must create a learning environment that is inviting and form bonds with the children by setting an enthusiastic and positive mood.
At Yonsei we use choices and redirection to elevate a student’s serotonin.
You can give your child the options of choices on how to do something you request of them. For example, you can tell your child he has to clean up his room by playing basketball with his dirty clothes in the hamper or loose toys in a toy box and your child has 3 minutes to make 20 points.
You can redirect bad behavior by telling Johnny, “Let’s see who can sit faster and more quietly than Johnny.” and Johnny
will want to win so will sit faster and quietly than his sibling or friend.