“are you doing more of that something, or less?”
The answer will tell you if your “plan” is working.
This might sting a little, so hold on with me…this is important.
If you have to continually send your child to timeout because that is the “new plan” for hitting or potty words, then timeout is probably not working. If you are having to constantly remind or beg your child to earn a special treat you have set aside for him for good behavior, it is probably not working. If you say something like, “the only thing that works is when I threaten to take away her…” then you are confused about what is “working,” because if it gets to that point more often than not, it is really NOT working at all.
If you always have to count to 3, stop it…it is not working.
Simply stated, if timeout is working, you should be doing it less and less. The “working” part would mean it is making the behavior less likely to happen again, so you would have to do timeouts less.
If you have to beg your child to earn a treat, the potential of earning the treat might be less motivating than avoiding the chore or displaying the behavior you are trying to rid. Think about that for a moment. There is always a competition of motivation.
If your threats increase instead of decrease, your threats are not working. The more you use the threats, the less they are actually working.
You see, when wondering about what to do to make a certain behavior go away or to make a certain behavior happen more, we have to look at it over time, not what happens right there in the moment. I have heard parents say, “he cried when I took it away…it really bothered him,” but in the same breath tell me they have to continually take his stuff away. Do you see the problem with that?
I have heard parents tell me how much their kid loves to do something or get something, but say their child will not lift a finger to earn it. Something is wrong there (actually, there could be several things, but you get the point).
A problem is we often think something should be a reinforcer for a behavior, but if it ultimately has no effect on the behavior over time…the behavior does not grow, it is not a reinforcer (even if you think it should be). Heck, I love peanut M&Ms, but if you hate them, they are not going to be reinforcing for your behavior. It does not really matter what I think.
Another problem, which is more difficult to deal with, is if you think something should be corrective or even punishing, but the behavior does not go away or become less frequent (if you have to continue to use these reactions or responses). Guess what? It is not a punisher for the behavior. It might make your kid sad, it might make her cry, it might make him ball up his fists and stomp his feet, but if the behavior is not going away…you have a problem.
You are only upsetting your child, making her cry, etc. This is not good, people. Please think about this.
So, what are you doing to improve your child’s behavior and are you doing more or less of it? Is it working?