For even the most seasoned parents, everyday responsibilities like enforcing bedtimes, establishing good eating habits and managing sibling infighting can feel overwhelming. We discuss strategies for using positive reinforcement to deal with a range of ordinary parenting challenges throughout a kid's life -- from toddler to teenager -- with Dr. Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Parenting Center and author of the new book, "The Everyday Parenting Toolkit."
ABC's of Parenting
"The A is "antecedent." The antecedent, or what can you do before a behavior to get the behavior you want. And it turns out, there's a lot you can do to get the behavior you want and also a lot of normal things we do as parents that make sure the behavior won't come through. So for example, you wanted - again, if normal parenting is going fine, this doesn't apply - if you have some challenge, getting your child to bed, the antecedent would be very clear instructions of exactly what you want to do and calmly. We ask that you put the word "please" in front of it, not to be polite, because "please" often changes the parent's tone of voice and tone of voice alone can make it so the child's more likely to comply."
"So B is behavior. And what the B is here is that you want to get the child to practice the behavior. And actually do it. Many times. A best analogy of this is a musical instrument. As a parent, you want some Rachmaninoff piece. No, no, it's not going to happen. We work on gradually, small segments, and repeated practice, and we change their brain in the process of that repeated practice. Do this program two or three weeks, forget the program, put the tool back in the kit. So among the key concepts is gradually shaping the behavior. You argue with your child for that one hour of homework because the teacher is on your back: He's not doing your homework. Well, we can get that hour, we can get ten minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, easily, then twenty, then thirty, then we can get the hour, and we can stop the program. But it's got to be gradual. The research shows that the gradual is critical."
Host Penny Nelson: And now, on to C - something every parent is familiar with, that's the use of consequences?
Alan Kazdin "Well they are [familiar with the use of consequences], but the familiarity actually makes this task very, very difficult. And so, consider, for example, praise, which is the main ingredient of these consequences. By the way, once in a while we use points and charts and stars. But to be honest with you, we use them for the parents, not for the child. And the reason we do that is that the parents do these programs, do praise better when they're doing something like a praise or charts."