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Other Approaches to Discipline

No single approach is going to work for all children or all problems. Here are behavior modification techniques that can be used with simple, specific prob­lems that do not require the more complex, systematic ABC approach.

Extinction, or "Active Ignoring"

This approach entails briefly removing all attention from the child. It is par­ticularly effective with children who are whining, sulking, or pestering. As part of this technique, parents provide appropriate alternative behavior for the child to use; when he adopts this new behavior, he receives parental attention again.

Positive Reinforcement

Catch the child exhibiting good behavior, and recognize and reward it quickly and as often as possible. The rewards can include demonstrations of affection, words of praise, eye contact, points, material objects, or special meals or ac­tivities. Give the youngster specific feedback about specific behavior: for ex­ample, "I like the way you shared your toys with your friend."

Giving rewards based on your child's behavior is more difficult than you might first imagine. Monitoring his behavior can consume a great deal of your time and energy. Also, material rewards can lead to your child's expectation that if he makes any behavioral change you request, he should receive a re­ward. There is also the danger that the good behavior will stop when the re­ward stops. However, without positive reinforcement, other efforts to change behavior, such as punishments, are unlikely to work. Use this technique only when you and your child think the problem is worth the effort.

Demonstrating Good Behavior

Parents' actions are more powerful than their words. Parents should demon­strate the desired behavior. Help out with a task. Also, do what you say, say what you mean, and mean what you say. Keep actions and words as consistent and positive as possible. When you slip up and don't match your behavior to your own expectations, show your child how you are able to learn from your mistakes.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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