When it comes to changing a behavior, it is important to look at three aspects: the antecedent, the behavior itself, and the consequence. The antecedent is what happens before a behavior and the consequence is what happens after a behavior. When discussing behavior, the consequence is not only discipline, but anything that follows the use of a behavior.
In life, there are natural consequences of our actions. This can be your greatest tool when shaping a child’s behavior. For example, if a child throws their toy out of frustration, then a natural consequence might be that the parent takes the toy away. Undoubtedly, the child will protest. It is important to follow through and let the child know that their act of throwing the toy was essentially an act of communication: I do not want this toy. To fix this behavior, lead the child to communicate what they actually wanted, such as “I need help.” Eventually, they realize that throwing toys does not bring out the outcome they want and the behavior will decrease. At the same time, the desirable behavior can increase.
It is also important to praise and give them rewards when they do the desirable behavior. Praise is an example of a positive and reinforcing consequence. Even if you prompted them the whole way, tell them “good job”. If they are being good, getting excited over it will help them to continue their good behavior. It also is important for any consequence to happen IMMEDIATELY. It becomes too confusing on why they are being punished if the consequence comes later. However, the same principle applies to praise. As soon as you see a more desirable behavior, reinforce it with your praise.