Review Progress and Adjust Your Program (continued)
Respond to Ongoing Success
When you have reached a point that your child has shown success on an item for a prolonged period, your next step is to determine whether the behavior is operating independently or still requires external reinforcement. Handle the process of determining that and of responding to the outcome carefully. Handled carelessly, it will teach your child that it is good to fail from time to time in order to keep the goodies coming. Handled well, it will teach the child how good it can feel to master one’s own behavior, a splendid gift from you to your child. So, what is required to assure the better outcome?
Assess the record
First review your child’s successes on a specific item from start to the present, as we did earlier for the item about Johnny getting the trash out. Use your own judgment as to how rapidly your child is assuming responsibility for each behavior. Some children may reach mastery on some behaviors after just a couple of weeks while on other behaviors only after much longer times. What matters is not the speed but the certainty since you are building a life-time of responsible behavior.
Here is a rule of thumb to guide your next move:
When you have seen six weeks of near-perfect performance on an item, it is appropriate to consider checking for internalization of the behavior and possibly fading out your reinforcement.
Just as we adults sometimes fail to live up to our own standards but still generally manage our responsibilities, children can show occasional lapses as they progress in your program and still be progressing well. Waiting for perfect performance likely would mean that you could never move on.