Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Alternatives to Punishment

I’d like to start this blog defining Punishment/Aversive Behavior Management.
First, punishment is doing something unpleasant to an individual in an effort to stop a behavior from occurring.   Therefore, it is likely to produce psychological, emotional and/or physical pain. And this is one of the main reasons why we recommend to stay away from punishment. Especially when talking about parenting your precious kids.  
Punishment can be also defined by the behavior of the individual being punished because he/she would avoid or escape from it if given the opportunity.
Using punishment is reacting out of frustration. For more information on this topic see our blog “Responding vs. Reacting” by clicking on http://totaleducationsolutions.blogspot.com/2013/08/responding-vs-reacting.html
What are the effects of punishment?
Stops the behavior for the moment. This is why people use punishment. However, it suppresses but does not eliminate the behavior. This is another reasons why we recommend against it.
Punishment puts the parent in the position of trying to control the child’s behavior versus teaching the child to control their own behavior, often resulting in power struggles which cause stress, frustration and anger to the parent.
Punishment creates fear, anger and/or resentment, which can result in more severe behavior problems. It teaches that whatever the child is trying to communicate is not important, wrong or bad.
In sum, people tend to use punishment because it stops the child’s problem behavior immediately, and therefore reinforces the parents’ punishing behavior. It is also an outlet for the parents’ own frustration and anger.
So, what to do instead? What the alternatives to punishment?
Positive/Non-aversive behavior management avoids the use of punishment because the goal is to develop or increase the occurrence of the desirable, functional behaviors.
Positive behavior management is implemented with a concern for the rights and dignity of the individual; its principles and strategies are acceptable to the general public and thus, can be implemented in community environments.
Here are some tips:
-  Look at what the person is trying to communicate, and teach another way to communicate it    appropriately.
-  Teach your kids how to cope with their emotions.
-  Set limits on inappropriate behavior.  For more information on Limits Settings go to http://totaleducationsolutions.blogspot.com/2013/02/limits-and-consequences.html
 - And always reward positive behavior.
a. Alternative communications: “Use your words, tell me that you are angry”.
b. Coping skills: “Let’s take some deep breaths. Go in your room and listen to music.”
c. Set limits: “It’s not okay to yell at me.”
d. Reinforcement: “That’s great that you got mad, but you did not yell!”  “You earned two points today.”
Steps to a non-aversive Approach

1. First, validate the child’s feelings: “I know you are mad at me because you want to go outside and I told you ‘No’.”

2. Set limits on the inappropriate behavior: “But you need to follow my directions and stay inside because it is raining.”

3. Provide alternatives to the behavior (look at what the child is trying to communicate and teach them another way): “Now, how about playing with your Legos, or your drawing set?”

4. Grant the child’s wishes in the future: “You will be able to play outside after school tomorrow.” 

5. Reward positive behavior: “It’s great that you got mad but you followed directions.  You earned your sticker.” 

Always remember Janet Hackleman’s phrase: “The goal of parents should not be to control their children’s behaviors but to teach them to control themselves.”


Daniel Adatto, BCBA



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