The reinforcers should be administered at least on a daily basis. It is generally ineffective to say “if you behave for a week, we will rent a video this weekend.” First, the word “behave” is too vague, and secondly, one week is too long to make the reinforcer effective in changing behavior. It is often beneficial to create a chart which outlines expected behaviors required to earn reinforcers.
It is helpful to know the function of children’s behavior. Functions can be categorized into gain and escape. Children generally try to gain attention and preferred activities, and escape unwanted tasks, or uncomfortable situations. If children are motivated by attention, they may benefit from specific praise or quality time with parents. Children motivated by access to preferred activities may benefit from earning these activities.
Examples include earning an additional 15 minutes on Wii or 10 minutes longer to play outside. Children motivated by escape may benefit from getting out of a chore for compliance with a parent’s demands.
Ineffective methods to promote behavior change
Punishment techniques such as time-out, taking privileges away and spanking are generally ineffective to promote lasting behavior changes. Punishment teaches our children what not to do, but does not teach them what to do as an alternative. When punishment is ineffective parents tend to use more punitive measures which generally make parents’ behaviors worse, rather than children’s behaviors better.
Time-out is the most commonly recommended punishment technique. It is a myth that one minute of time-out for each year of our children’s age is an appropriate guideline. Kazdin has found that only the first one to two minutes of time-out results in a change in our children’s behavior. Time-out may be helpful in facilitating the effectiveness of a positive behavior management plan.