Have you seen those commercials on TV? You know, the ones with “Captain Obvious?” They crack me up because they’re so funny, but in retrospect… it’s true. Things that are completely obvious to one person may not be so obvious to another. I sometimes feel like that goes hand-in-hand with behavioral management. What’s obvious to one person, might go completely over the head of the other person. Here. Let me show you.
Did you know, that by ignoring bad behavior and constantly reinforcing the good, will get you better results than by calling attention to “said” behavior?
I know, right? What a concept.
It was also one of the first things I learned when I first started in the behavioral field 13 years ago.
And did you also know, that by constantly reinforcing good behavior, your actually shaping the future outcome of other potential behaviors?
Because thanks to B.F. Skinner, we now know that we as a species want to please. We want to be positively reinforced in one way or another, and by doing so, we can create a more positive environment for ourselves, children, and yes… even our pets. Reinforcement of any kind drives use to do better. It makes us strive to want more.
Here, let me give you some examples.
1. With our puppy, Everest, we are clicker training him. Everest knows that every time I click the clicker, he is immediately reinforced with a treat. I also verbally and physically reinforce him with the words “GOOD BOY!!” and lots of pats and snuggles. Because clicker training is working so well, my puppy, who is 12 weeks old, can sit, lay down, walk on the leash, turn in a left circle, turn in a right circle, hold an eye gaze with me, and many more commands; all because he’s being highly reinforced by something that’s yummy to him. He also knows that if I don’t click the clicker, he needs to fix his current behavior so I will click, and then I can deliver a treat to him ASAP. Edit
Does that make sense?
2. With young children it’s a little different. I once had a BCBA who told me that in order to shape a particular behavior, I needed to use positive reinforcement at least six times in a half hour span, throughout my students day. It didn’t matter what the student was doing in that particular moment, all I had to do was call him on things that he was doing correctly. For instance, every time he sat nicely in his chair, I would give him a big smile and tell him how nicely he was sitting. I constantly reinforce him for raising his hand and not calling out. I reinforced him for using a proper pencil grip. I reinforced him for asking nicely for a break, and I also reinforced him when he had something nice to say to a friend. High fives were also a big hit!
This constant stream of positive reinforcement and constant attention from me, not only helped me build a fantastic relationship with my student, but with the community around us as well. He would try and test me every now and then, by doing things he knows he shouldn’t do in class, like rocking in his chair, purposely breaking pencils, etc. and when I didn’t reinforce him because I was purposely ignoring him, he immediately started to correct his own behavior because he couldn’t deal without hearing something positive from me.
I LOVE IT!!
3. When it comes to older children, like (tweens/teenagers) this becomes a little more challenging. They want their independence, but at the same time, we want them to be safe and out of harms way. So we let them test the limits a little. And sometimes they have to learn things the hard way, rather than the easy way that we’ve given them.
Can I get an amen?
When I was that teenager, my parents could yell at me and tell me things until they were blue in the face; but I always wondered what would happen if I did X, Y, and Z my way. And did I ever listen to them?
OF COURSE NOT!!!!
Why would any teenager listen to the voice of reason. But in the end AND learning things the hard way several times (first speeding ticket, bouncing the first check I ever wrote, mouthing off to a coworker, and a few more other things) I woke up and realized that my parents really didn’t know what they’re talking about. I didn’t know it all, and purposely seeking out negative reinforcement wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. I crashed and burned more than once, but in the end, I surrendered… because that’s what teenagers do.
B.F. Skinner said it best when he said this: “The way positive reinforcement is carried out, is more important than the amount.”
I couldn’t agree with him more, but Captain Obvious also says: “You can’t have a bad time when your wearing a lei. Even when you stub you toe.
… Thank you Captain Obvious!