Adjust Your Program to Changing Circumstances (continued)
How to Discontinue Your Program
While the home program is appropriately used in many families well into adolescence, some parents elect to discontinue their structured programs earlier. Should you choose to do so, here are some guidelines to help you maximize the benefits and minimize the potential negative effects.
To prepare yourself for the necessary steps, recognize that your home program represents an agreement between you and your child about the benefits of behaving responsibly. To eliminate the program from your family life while minimizing the potential detrimental effect on that vital message, plan how to remove the program structure while maintaining your supportive attitude and attention to responsible behavior.
Start by systematically reviewing how your child is doing on each item in your program, as well as the child’s progress toward whatever reward is of most interest, to assure you will end without breaking faith with your child.
Once you have a good sense of the status of each item, explain your plans to your child and what you each can expect, stressing your continuing interest in how well the child handles responsibility. Even though you will have gone through the fading process several times, your child likely will not readily accept your plan to reduce the number of items available for earning credits. What follows is intended to help you deal with those concerns.
Fade each item from your chart until your child has achieved mastery for each. Since you will gradually have fewer items in your program, your child will have fewer opportunities to earn credits and will worry about being able to achieve a planned reward. The child may even worry about losing your support. Lessen such concerns by increasing the number of credits for each success, keeping the total close to the original. Over time, as you get down to only a few items, this could become difficult, and you will have to adjust accordingly, finally arriving at the point where no credits are involved.
As you approach this stage, make sure your child will be able to earn enough credits for the final selected reward and won’t be left with worthless credits at the end. Be especially generous with supportive social reinforcement throughout this process. Keep in mind that all of these principles will continue to operate in your child and in your home even after you no longer use a structured program to take advantage of them. Therefore, continue to utilize the Principle of Positive Reinforcement even in an unstructured format. Especially avoid slipping back to the all-too-easy pattern of paying more attention to inappropriate behaviors than to those you consider appropriate.
These steps may lessen any negative impact of discontinuing your home program. Should you find your child struggling after the fact, remember that the structured home program offers powerful support for instilling responsible behavior in your child. While you can re-institute it at any time, your child may be wary when you restart it until trust is reestablished.