Good Behavior Gets Good ThingsFeb 25, 2021 04:53PM ● By Jessica Herbert, M.S., BCBA, LBA
Have you ever wondered why your child engages in a certain behavior such as the ever-constant, Mom! Mom! Mom! or Dad! Dad! Dad!, until you respond? Have you wondered why they spin around and around until they get dizzy and collapse on the living room floor?
Maybe you question the reason behind the thousand nightly requests for kisses, hugs, or glasses of water? The simple answer is, they are getting reinforced for that behavior.
Reinforcement is gaining something such as attention, access, or even escape from something, which in turn strengthens the future chances of that behavior occurring again. In the world of applied behavior analysis (ABA), we like to reinforce behavior that we want to see more of in the future. We call this strengthening the behavior.
Reinforcement is used to help teach appropriate, functional, and socially acceptable skills to children because they learn that if they do something “good,” they get something “good” in return. Those “good" things they get in return do not have to be tangible items like a new toy or money, although they can be if that's what you have set up.
They could be as simple as good quality attention or engagement from you, a high five, a hug, a kiss, verbal praise, social recognition, five more minutes before bedtime, or even extra privileges, to name a few. Small encounters with reinforcement throughout their day will go a long way in reinforcing behaviors you want to see more. It does not have to be a big spectacle every single time that your child does something remarkable. (Do not get me wrong, sometimes those big spectacles are warranted, so go ahead and indulge! Celebrate those big wins!)
While reinforcement is a great tool to use, it does have a drawback if misused. Because reinforcement strengthens a behavior (or makes it more likely to occur in the future), you must be careful with what behavior you are reinforcing.
It is best to reinforce the desired behavior immediately after it happens and try to minimize any attention or reinforcement for the behavior you do not want to see any more. If you wait too long, you run the risk of accidentally reinforcing a behavior that you may not want to see more of in the future.
Remember that reinforcement will increase the likelihood that a particular behavior will occur more often in the future! Keep your eyes peeled for those “good” behaviors and pile on the reinforcement so that the behavior will occur more often in the future.