Using positive behavioral management techniques increases the likelihood that a child or adult will learn or increase the frequency of a desired behavior. Positive behavior management techniques succeed by rewarding behaviors either each time they occur or on a variable schedule. The individual associates the good feeling of praise or the tangible reward with the behavior.
This positive behavioral-management technique, called differential reinforcement of other behaviors, seeks to eliminate an undesirable behavior by rewarding incompatible behaviors. For example in research with preschool children, the teacher wanted quiet on-task behavior during activity time–the desired behavior. Using a timer, the teacher gave a reward and praise to random students if the room remained quiet when the timer rang. If a disruption occurred, she reset the timer and no student received a reward. Researchers reporting in the International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy found a significant decrease in undesirable behaviors and, therefore, an increase in desired behaviors from using differential rewards.
In a token-based positive behavior-management system, teachers or parents reward desirable behaviors with a secondary reinforce such as a piece of plastic, a paper clip or a gold star that the child exchanges later for a prize such as a piece of candy or time for outside play. The child knows the value of desired behaviors in the token system, which the teacher or parent tailors to items or opportunities known as valuable to the child. Take care in setting up a token system to make the desired behaviors achievable.
Unlike token-based positive behavior-management techniques, immediate reward systems give praise or a tangible reward immediately after the child performs the desired behavior. The immediate reward system works well for younger children who have not developed good skills in delaying gratification. To use this technique effectively, teachers and parents should pair the presentation of the reward or praise with a statement reminding the child why the reward is offered.
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