Monitor, Maintain, and Adjust Your Home Program
By now you have learned:
- How children learn to take responsibility for their own behavior,
- How your actions – intentional or otherwise – contribute to that process.
You also have learned the practical application of your expanded understanding in order to:
- Support your child’s appropriate behavior by proactively structuring a simple program for your own home,
- Extend your influence over your children even when you are not with them by enlisting the support of trusted monitors,
- Reduce the occasional inappropriate behavior that appears while you teach your child to behave responsibly, by effective use of time-out, and
- Incorporate all of this into your family life with a minimum of disruption and a maximum of benefit.
After you have operated your home program for a while, you will notice more progress on some target behaviors than others. You may have already undertaken some fine-tuning on the less effective items. As you settle into a workable routine, you may find that your child regularly completes at least an item or two. Good for your child! And good for you for setting things up to support this change! Better still, you may find that your daily reviews have led to warm and pleasant family interactions each day.
Early successes may tempt you to take your child’s improved compliance for granted and to slack off on the program. While this seems natural, it can undermine and even destroy your good work. Until the appropriate behavior has been internalized – that is, has become self-reinforcing – your child will revert to the old behavior if you discontinue the promised social and material rewards. Prematurely assuming complete success is among the most common reasons for failure of positive reinforcement programs.
This inherent risk highlights a significant challenge. How do you know when your child has been reinforced enough to achieve mastery of a behavior? The answer is not so obvious since the child’s behavior is likely to look about the same during the later stages of when reinforcement is still needed and after it no longer is needed.
Fortunately, there are specific steps you can take to review your progress and determine whether your child has achieved mastery and no longer requires continuing reinforcement. For most children and for most behaviors, this stage is unlikely to occur for at least a few weeks; for some children and some behaviors, it could be a good deal longer.