"I carry rings or stickers in my pocket for when a child says please or thank you. I make a big deal out of it and tell them how lucky they are to have good parents that teach them that. Unfortunately I don't give a lot out at some functions." -- Christine Wolf
I served one year as a teacher in the Bible Study Fellowship Children's Program. There I learned that there are two types of discipline. One is to punish negative behavior. The other is to reward positive behavior. The BSF policy was that we were to watch for positive behavior and comment on it favorably. You get the behavior that you reward. Ironically punishing negative behavior can reinforce it because the attention received is a type of reward.
I have been in a leadership position in my local Cub Scout organization for the past year and a similar philosophy is used there. I was on staff for a week-long Cub Scout Day Camp. We were given wooden beads on a safety pin to present to boys for good behavior. For example, during the first aid class several of the cubs in my den were not paying attention to the instructor. I interrupted the class briefly to present beads to those who had been listening, and explained why they were getting a bead. By the end of the class everyone was focused on the instructor and received a bead. We had some boys who took an instant dislike to each other and during the week we were frequently stopping arguments or breaking up fights. Towards the end of the week one of the boys told me he thought he deserved a bead because he hadn't gotten into a fight during the previous hour-long session. Of course, I gave him one.
Presenting a little token or prize is effective, but is not the only option. When a child says "thank you" to me, I tip my hat to them. At a birthday party I handed out a coloring sheet of Charlie, and only the last few kids thanked me. I tipped my hat to each of them. When I handed out a little box of crayons, most of the kids thanked me. I tipped my hat to everyone who had thanked me. They thought that was funny. When I handed out a photo business card of Charlie, everyone thanked me. Some of the kids thanked me several times to see if I would tip my hat every time. It turned into a little game for the remainder of the party. Kids would look for reasons to thank me just to get me to tip my hat.
Another way that I have seen this philosophy used in entertainment involves the selection of volunteers. Often entertainers explain at the beginning of a performance that they will select assistants who are sitting down, raising their hands, and smiling. Then when they pick somebody they say, "I noticed that you have been sitting down, smiling, and you raised your hand when I asked for an assistant. Will you please come up on stage and help me?" I have observed those entertainers have enthusiastic audiences that respond to them verbally while remaining under control.
I know that many of my subscribers have positions of leadership in variety arts organizations. A similar philosophy works in getting the type of behavior you want in an organization. I am finishing my first term as the Committee Chair for my grandson's Cub Scout Pack. When one of the committee members failed to follow through with one of their responsibilities, I didn't say much about it. A few times I publicly took the blame for something not turning out. When somebody did a good job with something they were responsible for, I made sure to express my appreciation right away. Then I gave them credit for the success of the event in our monthly newsletter. I noticed that as the year progressed it was easier to get people to volunteer to supervise events. Last September I had to organize and run one event on my own because I couldn't get anyone else to volunteer. This spring there have been several events run entirely by other volunteers.
What behavior would you like to encourage? How can you reward that?