Is your child demonstrating unacceptable behaviors but time-outs don’t seem to be affective? Time-outs are part of a negative reinforcement system, which works for some children and not for others. If you are looking for another system to modify your child’s behavior, try this Puff Ball Reward System. This positive reinforcement behavior system is aimed to motivate and encourage a child, usually over four years old, to demonstrate increased appropriate behaviors and decreased negative behaviors.
Using the system:
1. Use a jar or container large enough to hold up to 30 puff balls. Begin by putting a line of tape around the jar at a point that would take 15 puff balls to reach the line.
2. Make a list of rewards that your child can work towards. Examples of rewards can include extra screen time, extra book at bedtime, one-on-one lunch date, or baking special treats. Have your child choose a reward before starting the system so he/she understands what the end goal will be.
3. Reward your child intermittently when you notice he/she is using desired appropriate behavior. Intermittent rewards encourage behavior modification at a much faster rate than rewards given at expected times. It is important that your child earns a reward within the first three days of beginning the system (e.g. he/she will earn five puff balls during the first three days). This system is designed to experience success at a quick rate in the beginning, which will encourage your child to try his/her best so that he/she can always potentially earn a puff ball.
4. Once your child has reached the line, the reward will be earned. Each time your child reaches the line, you will move the line of tape higher on the jar so that he/she has to earn more puff balls in order to earn the next reward.
Handling misbehaviors while using this system:
There are two options to handling misbehavior with the positive reinforcement system:
1. Ignore the misbehavior-do not give attention beyond initial recognition of the behavior, assuming your child is in a safe place. You can say, “(child’s name), we do not hit.”
2. Natural consequence-give a consequence depending on the situation. For example, if you are playing a game and your child begins to yell, hit, or throw then you put the game away.
* The key is to be consistent with whichever option you choose so that your child learns that the same response will always occur.
Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LSW, DT
Licensed Social Worker