The Power of Positive

January 26, 2008 Kyron No Comments

The other day I showed you the chart we have with Katherine (the smiley face one) that charts certain tasks. We have used charts like that on and off for quite some time with Katherine. We learned about them when Katherine was getting ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy. Over simplified ABA therapy behavior modification technique which uses positive rewards to target behavioral change.

This oversimplification makes it sound like bribery which it’s not. Think reward system. You get rewarded for performing well at work (paycheck) – this utilizes a similar technique. This type of system works very well for children with autism, PDD, TBI, ADD/ADHD or any diagnosis with challenging behaviors.

Think about it. People generally avoid negative input. Who remembers asking their parents for a spanking or grounding? Who wants to be yelled at or get a disapproving look from their boss, spouse or parent? While negative input will illicit behavioral change the problem is it rarely lasts long. With our kids concepts and lessons are typically that much harder to teach so longer lasting results are critical.

I don’t know about your child but Katherine thrives on attention. This becomes a problem because she really doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative attention….well to be more specific while she’d prefer positive attention but she’ll take what she can get and negative attention will suit her just fine if she isn’t getting the positive kind. This means we really need to have as many ways to give her positive reinforcements set in place as possible because positive gets more positive. Studies state that reinforcement (positive intervention) works far better than punishment (negative intervention).

Let me say that the training for this is not just for Katherine – it took a lot of retraining on the grownup (Mom, Dad, Stepdad, Grandparents) side of things as well. While I thought I always tried to praise her, I was also quick to punish or give negative input with infractions. The basic idea here is to become a proactive parent, one that rewards rather than reacts to undesirable behaviors. Sounds like a piece of cake – not quite as easy as it sounds but quite attainable. Even us “old dogs” can learn new tricks.

Exceptional Parent actually ran an article about positive parenting in the December 2007 issue. Here are the key things they offered about getting the results you want from positive reinforcement.

  1. Catch kids being good – it’s easy to notice bad and take the good for granted. To be successful with this type of program you have to acknowledge and reward what the kids do right.
  2. Reward the right behavior – the system should be used to get new behaviors or strengthen desired behaviors. Avoid rewarding behaviors that are already consistently appropriate.
  3. Use variety and creativity – Keep it fun and interesting for you and your kids. Make sure your system is versatile enough to allow for creativity while maintaining consistent structure.
  4. Avoid costly rewards – if the rewards are too expensive or too time consuming, they are difficult to fulfill and this will often result in inconsistency. One way to incorporate larger rewards is to award pieces of a puzzle or letters to form a word etc.
  5. Be consistent in your implementation – The most important key to success is consistency. Develop and share the “rules” of the system and stick to it. Adjustments are fine, but avoid giving in to whining and begging.
  6. It’s NOT bribery – You are promising something to your child to induce him to do something illegal, wrong or against his wishes. It’s a reward system and you are recognizing your child’s ability to do something right.
  7. Have faith in the system – Give it time to work. Take time to evaluate problems and make modifications accordingly. Just like anything it takes time. Our typical kids will pick up on it faster than our special kids….it’s ok. Keep going. It works and it makes for a more pleasant environment for all.

In this article Exceptional Parent also highlighted a device called the Appreciation Station that might just work to help you implement such a program. I’m going to get appreciationstation The Power of Positiveone to try it with Katherine.

This is a really visual and tactile way of reinforcing the reward. Shaped like a treasure chest, tokens are used to retrieve capsules that are pre-loaded with any number of rewards – stickers, small items, coupons, puzzle pieces etc. It’s visually bright and appealing and I don’t know about you but my kids love any machine they can put something in and get a reward out of. They love all those little machines that dispense candy, gum, temporary tattoos, or drinks. This device comes with a DVD which offers tips and techniques for using it. It’s $49.95 plus $12.95 shipping. I’ve just ordered it so I’ll report back in a follow up my thoughts on the product and on how it does in accomplishing the goals.

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