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What to Do When Your Behavior Chart Isn’t Working

Have you found that your child’s behavior chart is no longer as effective as it once was?  Or, maybe you’ve been working at it for weeks but have yet to observe your new behavior system actually working.  Well, you’ve come to the right place.  Today’s blog is all about making adjustments and modifications to your behavior system.  At this point, it may be tempting for you to throw away the whole idea of using behavior charts at all.  While I’m certainly not claiming that behavior charts are always the answer to managing your child’s behaviors, they can be a very effective parenting tool.  So, don’t give up!  If your behavior chart has not been working, try considering the following.

What to do when your behavior chart isn’t working:

  • Review the expected behaviors- New behaviors take time for children to learn and build into theirbehavior-chart-main routines. Be sure the behavior you want your children doing is understandable to them and age-appropriate.  Before a child can be expected to demonstrate behaviors independently, he/she can practice engaging in the behaviors with an older sibling or an adult.
  • Consider the motivators/rewards- If you already have a behavior chart set up, then you’ve (hopefully) already identified rewards. The rewards your child earns must be motivating to him/her.  A common misconception is that these rewards have to be purchased items or experiences.  Sure, most children are motivated by new toys, but there are other privileges and experiences that cost no money at all.  So get creative!  For example, a few extra minutes of play before bed, special time with a parent, or sitting in “mom’s seat” during dinner are all rewards that have been very motivating for a number of children.  Many parents also find it helpful to have a list of rewards and allow their child to choose what he or she earns.
  • Explore alternative strategies- Behavior charts can be an effective parenting tool for a number of reasons. One of the potential advantages to using a behavior chart is that it eliminates the need to make day-to-day (or minute-to-minute) decisions of how to respond to a child’s behaviors.  It is possible that if you’ve been consistently responding to your child’s behaviors and they do not seem to be learning from the rewards and consequences provided, a different intervention may be warranted.  Don’t hesitate to contact a professional social worker for parenting support.


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What did you do when your behavior chart stopped working?  Do you have other ideas of how parents and caregivers can get the most out of their behavior management system?  Your comments are welcome below.

 NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

poop on potty

Help! My Child Won’t Poop on the Potty

You have started the process of potty training, and your child is starting to make progress with urinating in the toilet. Hooray! Now comes bowel training, which tends to be more challenging. Some children will begin to poop in the toilet after the first occurrence, while other children may take longer. It is very common for bowel training to take longer since it is something that does not happen as much as urination, and some children may associate pain or discomfort with the toilet.  Some common issues that arise during bowel training include the following: child not wanting to sit on the toilet, child only pooping in his diaper or pull-up, and holding in bowel movements. Below are some strategies that can be used to make this process easier.

Tips to Get Your Child to Poop on the Potty:

    • Try to figure out exactly why your child will not poop in the toilet. There are a number ofHelp! My Child Won't Poop on the Potty reasons why a child won’t poop in the potty such as being scared of the toilet, not liking the sound of the flushing, etc.
      • If you child does have some type of fear of the toilet, begin having them touch the toilet, then eventually sit on the toilet with his clothes on and the lid down, then eventually sit on the toilet with the lid up. You can do these activities 3-4 times a day for a few minutes at a time to start, then eventually increase the time spent near or on the toilet. Be sure to reinforce and praise your child after each positive experience with the toilet.
      • Provide a potty seat and/or a stool for him to place his feet on to help your child feel secure on the toilet. Some children have fears of falling in or falling off the toilet, so providing these items will allow your child to feel more stable on the toilet.
    • If you have a boy and he is standing to urinate, begin having him sit while he urinates, so he can get comfortable sitting on the toilet.
    • Begin tracking the time of day when your child has bowel movements, and look for trends. If you notice your child always has bowel movements around bedtime, then you can start having him sit on the toilet at that time of day.
    • If your child will only poop in a diaper or pull-up, you can allow him to wear these initially, but require him to to stay in the bathroom while he poops.
      • Once he is successful with this, you can then have them sit on the toilet with the pull-up on, then eventually phase the pull-up out.
    • Create a reward system. Have a sticker chart or some other type of visual reward system, so your child has motivation to poop in the toilet. Allow your child to help choose his reward.
      • In the beginning, reward your child the first few times he successfully poops in the potty. Then after 5-6 successful times, make the reward dependent on her pooping in the potty 3 days in a row, then a week in a row, etc.
    • Provide natural consequences for accidents (i.e., have your child assist with the clean-up). Never yell or punish your child if he has an accident.
    • Let you child read a book, hold his favorite toy, or listen to music while sitting on the toilet. If he is tense or upset, he will not be able to have a bowel movement.
      • If you suspect your child may have constipation or any other type of bowel issue, contact your pediatrician. Also contact your pediatrician if you suspect your child is holding in his bowel movements.
    • Once your child eventually poops in the toilet, make a huge deal about it and reward him with his favorite foods, toys, activities, etc. so he is more likely to go again in the future.
    • Remember to be patient, as some children take a little longer to start pooping in the toilet, but sooner or later they will be fully potty trained.


Potty Training 101: The Easy How-To Guide For Parents Download our free, 15-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

using reinforcement and punishment

Using Reinforcement and Punishment at Home

How do I get my child to listen to me at home? This is a common question I hear from parents.  One solution is by using the basic principles of reinforcement and punishment. These principles will allow parents to gain control over their child’s behavior, and they will begin to see a decrease in negative behaviors and an increase in positive behaviors at home.

Tips for Using Reinforcement at Home
using reinforcement and punishment

Reinforcement is a consequence following a behavior that increases the probability that the behavior will increase in the future.

When you want to see a desired behavior increase or continue to occur, you should use reinforcement. It is important to first identify what is reinforcing to your child. Some children are very reinforced by adult attention, whereas other children are motivated by being alone playing electronics. It is also important to have variety of reinforcers that are used. If you are reinforcing your child with the same item over and over again, they are likely to get bored with that item.

Of course you don’t want to give your child access to the iPad every time they engage in a desired behavior, so you need to mix and vary the type of reinforcement used. Reinforcement can range from simple praise for taking out the garbage to buying highly desired toy for getting all A’s on the latest report card. Decide which behaviors you currently are trying to increase or maintain, and then deliver the reinforcement accordingly. For example, if there is a particularly challenging behavior that you are trying to increase (ex: potty training), you should pick an item that is very motivating to your child, and only give them access to that item when they engage in the desired behavior (i.e. using the potty). The item should be unavailable at all other times.

Examples of reinforcers that can be used at home include: praise and attention, treats, access to preferred electronics, being allowed to stay up later than usual, buying a desired toy, etc.

Tips for using Punishment at Home

Punishment is a consequence following a behavior that decreases the probability that a particular behavior will occur in the future.

When a behavior occurs that you want to eliminate or decrease, you should use punishment. Punishment is a necessary strategy to use when decreasing undesirable behaviors. Punishment doesn’t need to be something bad or something that your child fears. It is simply a consequence to a specific behavior.

As with reinforcement, you need to determine what is going to be an effective punishment for your child. If you child isn’t really motivated by electronics, then taking away electronics privileges probably won’t change their behavior. Conversely, if your child dislikes doing chores, then giving extra chores should decrease the behavior.

Examples of punishments that can be used at home include: time out, loss of privileges or preferred items, going to bed early, extra chores, etc.

Important Considerations for Using Reinforcement and Punishment

Always be mindful of how much you are using punishment, and to make sure you are also using reinforcement in addition to punishment. When children do not receive any reinforcement, they may start misbehaving more frequently in order to gain adult attention. It can be easy to focus on the negative behaviors and forget to reinforce the positive behaviors that you see.

Just as you need to make sure you are not solely punishing behaviors, it is also equally as bad to make sure you are not solely reinforcing behaviors and avoiding punishment altogether. If your child is engaging in specific behaviors that you want to stop, punishment needs to be used. It is important to remember that you are not punishing your child, rather you are punishing a specific behavior or set of behaviors.

As your child gets older, the items used for reinforcement and punishment should also change. Both the reinforcers and punishers used should always be age appropriate. Finally, when delivering either reinforcement or punishment, make sure you are delivering the consequence as soon as possible after the behavior occurred, so that your child knows exactly which behavior is being reinforced or punished.

For more specific definitions and examples of both reinforcement and punishment, you can reference my last blog: How to properly use reinforcement and punishment.






reinforcement and punishment

How to Properly Use Reinforcement and Punishment

Reinforcement and punishment are common terms that most people have heard of and use on a daily basis, whether they realize it or not. Although the concepts seem easy to understand and implement, it can be easy to confuse the basic principles and/or implement them incorrectly.  In order to understand the difference between reinforcement and punishment, it is important to understand the definitions of both terms.

Reinforcement

reinforcement and punishment

Reinforcement is a consequence following a behavior that increases the probability that the behavior will increase in the future. The consequence can be either positive or negative.

Positive Reinforcement is something added to the consequence that will increase that particular behavior in the future.

Example: Your child cleans his room the first time you ask, so you give him  a cookie as a reward. In the future he is more likely to clean his room the first time you ask.

Negative Reinforcement is something removed from the consequence that will increase that particular behavior in the future.

Example: Students do well on their math test so the teacher doesn’t give them homework over the weekend.

Negative reinforcement is often interpreted incorrectly and becomes confused with punishment. But from the above definition and example, you can see that negative reinforcement is used to increase desired behaviors, and is not punishing in any way.

Punishment

Punishment is a consequence following a behavior that decreases the probability that a particular behavior will occur in the future. As with reinforcement, the consequences can be positive or negative.

Positive Punishment:  Something added to the consequence that will decrease a certain behavior in the future.

Example: Your child talks back to you, so you make them do extra chores.

Negative Punishment: When a consequence includes the removal of an item or privilege that will decrease the behavior in the future.

Example: Your child fails a test, so you take away their cell phone for a week.

 

Tips for using reinforcement 

  • Always be sure to only reward behaviors that you would like to strengthen and see again in the future. It is easy to inadvertently reinforce negative behaviors without realizing it (Ex: You child is crying in the grocery store because you won’t buy them candy. You eventually give in and buy them candy, so the next time they want candy in the grocery store they are going to cry). In this example the behavior of crying was positively reinforced, so that behavior will continue in the future.
  • Vary the type of reinforcement used to avoid overindulgence of a particular item or activity (i.e., if you always reward your child with candy for good behavior, they are likely to get tired of the candy and may stop engaging in the desired behavior).
  • Before choosing a reinforcer, figure out what your child is currently motivated by and use that item. Some children can be motivated by the same item for longer periods of time, and others may change their motivation more frequently.
  • Be consistent with the delivery of reinforcement in order to maintain the desired behavior.

 Tips for using punishment

  • Be sure to only punish behavior that you want to decrease. In addition to inadvertently reinforcing negative behavior, it is also possible to accidentally punish appropriate behaviors.
  • When punishing a behavior you want to decrease, always make sure you continue to reinforce appropriate behaviors.
  • If you find yourself using punishment and the behavior is not decreasing, re-evaluate the consequence and try another consequence. Also, what may be punishing to your child this week may not be punishing next week. Just as you always need to re-evaluate what reinforcers to use, you also need to re-evaluate what punishing consequences to use based on your child’s current motivation.
  • Be consistent with the delivery of consequences in order to decrease the undesired behavior.

Click here for more great tips to implement positive and negative reinforcement during play dates.

How to Discipline a Special Needs Child (When He Doesn’t Understand)

Disciplining a child with special needs is more challenging than disciplining a typically developing child. That said, it is just as important,how to discipline a special needs child if not more so, to encourage appropriate behavior for your child. It is essential to hold special needs children to the same expectations as their typically developing peers as often as possible.
Discipline is not a punishment. It is a tool to be used to promote positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors. It should be used as a means to encourage progress of the child across all aspects of their development. And while all children are different and demonstrate different behaviors as they grow, there are a few discipline techniques that are applicable for all special needs children.

Discipline Strategies for Special Needs Children:

1. Praise good behaviors, ignore bad behaviors (if possible). Cause and effect is one of the earliest concepts a child learns. If he learns that you give attention (even if it is to reprimand or physically stop him) when he reacts inappropriately, he will continue the poor behavior seeking the negative attention. Rather, it is beneficial to teach him that the good behaviors will result in the attention and praise he seeks. Read more

What’s The Difference Between Positive and Negative Punishment?

Punishment is used to help decrease the probability that a specific undesired behavior will occur with the delivery of a consequence immediately after the undesired response/behavior is exhibited. When people hear that punishment procedures are being used, they typically think that something wrong or harmful is being done, but that is not necessarily the case. punishment

The use of these procedures have been used with both typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons, animals, and people exhibiting different psychological disorders. There are two types of punishment: positive and negative, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Below are some examples to help clear up the confusion.

Positive Punishment:

This works by presenting a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior less likely to happen in the future. The following are some examples of positive punishment:

  • A child picks his nose during class and the teacher reprimands him in front of his classmates.
  • A child wears his favorite hat to church or at dinner, his parents scold him for wearing it and make him remove the hat.
  • During a meeting or while in class, your cell phone starts ringing, you are lectured on why it is not okay to have your phone on.

Negative Punishment:

This happens when a certain desired stimulus/item is removed after a particular undesired behavior is exhibited, resulting in the behavior happening less often in the future. The following are some examples of negative punishment:

  • For a child that really enjoys a specific class, such as gym or music classes at school, negative punishment can be removal from that class and sent to the principal’s office because they were acting out/misbehaving.
  • If a child does not follow directions or acts inappropriately, he loses a token for good behavior that can later be cashed in for a prize.
  • Siblings get in a fight over who gets to go first in a game or who gets to play with a new toy, the parent takes the game/toy away.

When thinking about punishment, always remember that the end result is to try to decrease the undesired behavior. For positive punishment, try to think of it as adding a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is emitted to decrease future responses. As for negative punishment, try to think of it as taking away a certain desired item after the undesired behavior happens in order to decrease future responses.

Learn about the difference between positive and negative reinforcement here.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst

What’s The Difference Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement?

Reinforcement is used to help increase the probability that a specific behavior will occur with the delivery of a stimulus/item immediately after a response/behavior is exhibited. The use of these procedures has been used with both typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons, animals, and different psychological disorders. 

There are two types of reinforcement: positive and negative. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Positive Reinforcement:

This is a very powerful and effective tool to help shape and change behavior. It works by presenting a motivating item to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.

The following are some examples of positive reinforcement:

• A mother gives her son candy for cleaning up his toys.

• A little girl receives $5.00 for doing chores.

Negative Reinforcement:

This is when a certain stimulus/item is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. The likelihood of the particular behavior occurring again in the future is increased because of removing/avoiding the negative stimuli.

It should not be thought of as a punishment procedure. With negative reinforcement, you are increasing a behavior, whereas with punishment, you are decreasing a behavior.

The following are some examples of negative reinforcement:

• Billy hates when his mom nags him to do the dishes. He starts to do the dishes immediately after finishing a meal to avoid his mother’s nagging.

• Lisa always complains of a headache when it is time to start doing her homework. Her parents allow her to go to bed without doing her homework.

Always remember that the end result is to try to increase the behavior, whereas punishment procedures are used to decrease behavior. For positive reinforcement, try to think of it as adding something positive in order to increase a response. For negative reinforcement, try to think of it as taking something negative away in order to increase a response.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst