021 – Chapter 3, Part 7

Summary of the Basic Rationale

Our goal is to teach children to take adequate responsibility for their own behavior so that as they move from infancy toward adulthood they become increasingly capable of handling the freedom and choice allowed them.

The most commonly used tools of discipline – verbal reprimands, restrictions, and spanking – generally fail to change children’s behavior for the better over the long run and they may even make things worse.

To overcome these limitations we focus on two equally important components:

First, eliminate the advantages to your children of their inappropriate behaviors, that is, ignore inappropriate behavior and otherwise assure there are no secondary benefits from misbehaving.

Second, proactively arrange for your children to meet their important needs through responsible behavior that assures them your positive attention and whatever material reward you have agreed to.

Fulfilling these steps involves:

  • Consciously taking advantage of the natural developmental progression over which you have considerable control, selectively providing material and social reinforcement for behaviors you choose to increase, and
  • Continuing to reinforce those appropriate behaviors long enough to assure your children come to independently reinforce themselves.

Fundamental to this approach is the Principle of Positive Reinforcement: that any behavior that occurs and is followed by a reward is more likely to occur again. The principle reveals that with sufficient reinforcement a behavior becomes internalized and no longer depends upon external reward.

Since even inappropriate behaviors become internalized when reinforced long enough, it is important to identify and strongly reinforce behaviors that are desirable and directly incompatible, to replace the inappropriate ones.

The next section focuses on how to systematically incorporate these concepts into a structured program for use in your home, providing you with a powerful way to enhance your children’s capacities for responsible behavior.


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