085 – Chapter 8 – Part 11

Troubleshoot Your Program

Even the most successful program may at times show some problems. Fortunately some sleuthing and suitable modifications are likely to get you back on track. As with most problems, those that arise in a home program are more easily resolved by taking action sooner rather than later. One bonus of the daily review is that it keeps you constantly aware of how your child is doing and thus more likely to notice any significant setback early on. Taking calm action as soon as problems are identified will pay long-term benefits.

What follows focuses on families who have had some success followed by signs of decline in their home programs.

Diminishing Benefits of Your Rewards

The most common problems in programs showing initial success but declining effectiveness also turn out to be the easiest to identify and resolve. They most often involve the reinforcement side of the program.

Children who have already earned the most-prized rewards or whose interests have changed are at risk of losing their investment in doing well. To determine whether your child has lost interest in the available rewards, as you complete one of your daily reviews, ask the child something like:

Well, Carlos, what reward are you working toward now? Or

Carlos, are you still working toward that family trip to the park?

A child eager for a specific reward may describe the reward enthusiastically, explaining in detail how much fun it will be and maybe even exactly how many more credits are required to reach the goal. On the other hand, a child whose interests have waned may appear rather vague or unenthusiastic when asked about the reward. To clarify, ask a question like this:

You don’t seem very interested in any rewards on our list right now. Is there something you’d like us to consider adding to your reward list?

A child who has lost interest in choices on the list may produce a long list of all the things hoped for but not received on the last birthday. If that happens, you probably have identified the key issue. Your next steps are to: 

  • Consider choices your child suggests;
  • Select those that fit your family’s values, resources, and time; and
  • Settle on the number of credits required for each new item. 

With that done, just monitor the situation for a few days to see if the modification accomplishes what you had hoped. If so, enjoy.

Since some children aren’t so eager to suggest new reward choices even if they have lost interest in those on their list, don’t assume that a blah response means the problem is elsewhere. Instead try to determine whether there might be new reward choices that will increase your child’s interest and motivation to do well on the program. You can address this further with a comment such as:

It looks like you can’t think of anything special to add right now. Why don’t you think about it a bit and when we meet for our daily review Sunday, we’ll discuss it again.

This may be enough to start the wheels turning and encourage your child to think of things to work toward. In a few days you can ask whether the child is considering anything interesting to suggest.

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It is better to bind your children to you by a feeling of respect and by gentleness, than by fear.


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Meanwhile, you can think about things you know are of interest to your child and plant some seeds or even just directly suggest a specific idea. You are most likely to succeed in this effort if you watch the things the child shows ongoing interest in during the course of routine days. Once you have hit on some ideas, you can explore them with the child in a comment such as:

Carlos, we’ve noticed how much you like to watch sports on TV. Would you like a trip to a ball game with Dad as a choice on your reward list?

Once the child shows interest in one or more additional choices, the task boils down to working those into the program and proceeding from there as discussed just above.


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