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Discouraging undesired behaviour

1 reply

chicaguapa · 30/05/2006 23:27

I feel like I've been invited onto this board. :) Having posted a message on behaviour/ development, "Jimjamskeepingoffvaxthreads" suggested I posted it here too. I will paste in my contributions to that thread...

DD (4) has been behaving really badly and the only advice I've been given is use positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour. But she really really needs something to stop the bad stuff as she's a clever little monkey and knows how to work the reward/ sticker system by being good when she wants to.

We have been getting ourselves in the position of withdrawing a priviledge to encourage her to stop behaving badly and then it not being enough to motivate her to stop. So we have withdrawn it AND she's still behaving badly. So we have backed ourselves into a corner and then have to find something else.

I am completely understanding of the positive parenting approach and we do this consistently. However dd is extremely defiant and disobedient at times and something is needed to deal with that.

Eg at bedtimes she refuses to go to bed and stay there. So we spend over an hour doing the time out strategy of putting her back in her room avoiding eye contact and not talking to her. To her this is a game and a way of ensuring one of us stays upstairs with her until she has had enough. If you ask her why she does it, it's because she wants to be naughty. She gets a sticker on her pj's when we go to bed if she has gone to bed without a fuss. She likes this but there are some days when she decides she doesn't want a sticker.

We have also tried the gradual withdrawal method to remove the need for her to do something to get our attention and presence after she's gone to bed. When she stays in bed, one of us returns to give her a cuddle or say night night after 5 minutes, which increases by 1 minute each time as the night wears on and of course she mostly falls asleep at some point.

However there are nights when she just doesn't want to play ball and we are powerless to stop her behaviour.

A child psychologist friend told me once to confiscate her teddy and return it to her once she was in bed. (Rather than confiscate the teddy because she wouldn't get back in bed. Which leaves you down a dead end where we have found ourselves many times.) But she couldn't care less any more if you confiscate her teddy anyway.

Anyway I thought this might be a form of Negative Reinforcement. I can't ask the child psychologist anymore as she now has breast cancer and, quite rightly, probably couldn't care less that dd is still defiant!


This is a challenging situation. We tried that and she decided after a couple of days that she didn't mind the door being closed after all so we lost that 'tool'. When we confiscated her teddy she ended up just giving him to us when she went to bed, so we couldn't take it off her.

I have also tried the ignoring approach but she just climbs over me and then resorts to hitting me to get me to react. I appreciate that if she had nothing to fight against she wouldn't be defiant. But the alternative would be to just let her roam around the house at free will even though it's bed time.

Maybe we'll try holding the door closed again. We have done this before and she has thrown everything at it. Then she got hysterical and we weren't sure if we were doing the right thing. It seemed like locking her in the coal shed! But she did eventually get back into bed after A VERY LONG TIME! Although a friend suggested at that point we should have maybe praised her for finally getting into bed (which we hadn't done).

Maybe it's relevant, I don't know, but she's "gifted/savant" (as used by the education authority as she's in the top 2%) so I don't know if more desperate measures are required in those circumstances as I understand it's a sort of special needs.


Hi, Just a few comments. She is usually ok about going to bed, will happily read a book or two quietly etc. So we don't feel there is a sinister reason for her not wanting to stay in bed. We are realistic about our expectations and simply want her to stay in her bedroom instead of running around the house and doing the opposite. We have often gone to bed ourselves with her still awake reading. I did this myself as a child and am fairly relaxed about it. We have strong guidelines and boundaries but allow her an element of freedom within them. This we hope reduces the need to defy us and battle for control.

However, she sometimes resists staying in her room and actually says it's because she wants to be naughty! She has stacks of positive attention from us and I wonder sometimes if she just wants some negative attention?

I read this comment "The danger with your dd being so intelligent is that she will feel manipulated into being good if you make your "love" conditional upon good behaviour." and something struck a cord. She knows that our love is unconditional. But if you substituted the word "love" with "attention" I think you might have something there.

We are doomed . Is it possible for a child to defy the benefits of positive reinforcement/ parenting?

I look forward to your comments although I do feel like a bit of a fraud. I've had a quick look at some of the threads on here and ds behaviour seems so trivial compared to that. Blush

OP posts:
Jimjamskeepingoffvaxthreads · 31/05/2006 00:05

oh I meant to the technical questions about Skinner and positive/negative reinforcement extinction and punishment as the ABA experts will know!

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