Review Progress and Adjust Your Program (continued)
Respond to your child’s mastery
For items that start with few credits, only a step or two of fading may bring you to a level where cutting the number further leaves too little to be meaningful. In that case you may move to remove the item entirely.
Reaching this point should be seen as a big deal, both because your child has truly accomplished something important and because there is some risk of return to earlier problems when your child recognizes a loss of reward. Make sure that your child fully recognizes that achievement. At your daily review you can emphasize the mastery and can stress how pleased you are. You also can present the child with a special “certificate of mastery” to acknowledge the success. The simple sample shown below was developed on a home computer.
Figure 13. Sample Certificate of Mastery to enhance reinforcement
Manage Lapses in Your Child’s Progress
After you reduce reinforcement for a behavior your child had been handling well, if the child does not succeed as often, you may have misjudged the child’s readiness. Remain calm and continue your practice of praising successes, stifling any impulse to remark, “But you had been doing so well!” Even if your child does not complete the task for a couple days in a row, you need not panic. But if it continues after that, it is time to reverse your changes. Taking this step should not be seen as a failure but simply as evidence that the child wasn’t yet ready for the change.
At the end of your daily review very calmly say to the child something like:
Well, Kai, I guess we jumped the gun by reducing the credits you earned for getting the trash out on time. We see you still need our help and we have put those five credits back so that now you can earn ten credits just like you did before. We are sorry we made it harder for you, but we know you can get back on track and do as well as you did before.
But with Kai, we combined five credits taken from getting the trash out with the points he could earn for getting his math assignment in on time. Now Kai’s parents have to make a choice about how to handle the credits, especially if he has shown improvement in math. If they move the credits back to the trash, Kai may lose his progress in math. An alternative is for the parents simply to add five more credits into the system, leaving the moved credits where they were placed. The effect will be to inflate the system just a bit, meaning the child may get to his material reward a bit sooner. Most parents would not find this a problem if they are seeing good results.
When you next feel your child is ready, return to Step 2 to try again.