What’s The Difference Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement?

Reinforcement is used to help increase the probability that a specific behavior will occur with the delivery of a stimulus/item immediately after a response/behavior is exhibited. The use of these procedures has been used with both typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons, animals, and different psychological disorders. 

There are two types of reinforcement: positive and negative. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.

Positive Reinforcement:

This is a very powerful and effective tool to help shape and change behavior. It works by presenting a motivating item to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.

The following are some examples of positive reinforcement:

• A mother gives her son candy for cleaning up his toys.

• A little girl receives $5.00 for doing chores.

Negative Reinforcement:

This is when a certain stimulus/item is removed after a particular behavior is exhibited. The likelihood of the particular behavior occurring again in the future is increased because of removing/avoiding the negative stimuli.

It should not be thought of as a punishment procedure. With negative reinforcement, you are increasing a behavior, whereas with punishment, you are decreasing a behavior.

The following are some examples of negative reinforcement:

• Billy hates when his mom nags him to do the dishes. He starts to do the dishes immediately after finishing a meal to avoid his mother’s nagging.

• Lisa always complains of a headache when it is time to start doing her homework. Her parents allow her to go to bed without doing her homework.

Always remember that the end result is to try to increase the behavior, whereas punishment procedures are used to decrease behavior. For positive reinforcement, try to think of it as adding something positive in order to increase a response. For negative reinforcement, try to think of it as taking something negative away in order to increase a response.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Goals Are Not Just For New Year’s Resolutions, They Are For Kids Too!

Graduating girlWe create New Year’s resolutions because we want to make a big change in ourselves—but how do we get there? It’s all about breaking down that resolution into smaller steps! Your child can do this, too, and you might want to consider starting off the New Year with this conversation…

What are the benefits of creating goals for pre-teens and teenagers?

• Your children have been learning their health habits and establishing their lifestyle all based upon their life with you. As long as they still live under your roof, you have opportunities to set them up with good living habits.

• What you teach them now about making plans and following through will be beneficial to the development of responsibility for the rest of their life.

• When your child takes the steps necessary to achieve her goals, she is acquiring skills that lead to greater independence.

• The satisfaction that comes from being able to achieve a goal is a tremendous boost to self-esteem and happiness.

Tips for setting & achieving goals:

• Let them decide what they would like to achieve, and help them gather the tools to get there.

• All big goals should be broken down into small objectives. Make the small objectives achievable so that your child can jumpstart his/her plan successfully. Read more

Recognizing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at School: Tips for Teachers & Parents

How teachers can spot signs and symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in the classroom, and the important questions parents can ask them.

Girl washing hands

Obsesive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a very challenging disorder that can leave both children and their parents feeling confused, hopeless or out of control. Sometimes symptoms do not show up at school, as some children work very hard to keep it disguised due to fears of embarrassment. During periods of high demand and increased stress, however, it will become especially hard for those children to hide symptoms.

Some symptoms of OCD are very obvious and well-known, while others are not observable at all. Some are observed and are considered misbehavior. It can look like “acting out,” particularly when a symptom causes so much frustration that the child breaks rules in order to do what they feel they need to do.

OCD Behaviors To Watch Out For:

• Obsession with certain numbers, including counting, touching, saying or performing any ritual a certain number of times. This includes believing certain numbers are “magical” and avoiding certain numbers, objects, or places that are considered “unsafe”, “unlucky” or “bad” (e.g. ripping or scratching out certain pages/number items from homework and test papers).

• Rituals related to the use of desks, chairs, pages in books, lockers, supplies, etc. This includes avoiding or excessively checking any objects before using them.

• Visiting the bathroom too frequently (may involve performance of rituals related to hand washing or body waste). Also look for raw, chapped hands from constant washing. Read more

Cyber Bullying | How to make sure it doesn’t happen to your child!

Recent media events have highlighted the issue of bullying. A Rutgers University student, for example, committed suicide a few weeks back due to being bullied over the Internet (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/29/dharun-revi-molly-wei-charged_n_743539.html ).Cyber Bullying Girl Crying

Bullying is nothing new. Older movies such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club have all featured some form of bullying behavior. The key difference between bullying in the past and present, however, is in the level of anonymity – changes in technology have made bullying much more anonymous over time. Almost every child is on Facebook these days. Anyone can create an account, and the identifying information as to who “owns” the account can often be limited. The impact of cyber bullying has lead to a great deal of emotional harm as well as actual physical harm, as shown by cases like that of the Rutgers University student.

Tips to help decrease the likelihood of your child being “cyber bullied”:

1. You must closely monitor your child’s computer face time. Have a central location for the family’s computer. Keep it in a den or office room that is accessible for all family members.

2. Social media tools, such as Facebook, can serve as a great avenue for social relationships. They are not necessarily a bad thing, and you should not have your children completely avoid such avenues of socialization. However, if your child is using Facebook, it is imperative that you know your child’s login and password. Let your child know that you will be monitoring the Web site to ensure that nothing dangerous is there.

3. If your child is going to be on the site, you must be on the site yourself. Also, one requirement that you would have for your child is that he or she must be your “Facebook friend.” This way you can monitor what information he or she puts on the Web site and what information people are leaving for him or her.

4. If you suspect that someone is bullying your child, the first thing you should do is click the “Report this person” link on that person’s profile screen. This is done anonymously and will lead to an investigation to determine if that individual’s Facebook page should be censured. Also, ask your child to “de-friend” the person and find out what the situation with the bullying was about.

Bullying has always been around and likely will always be around in some format. With the changing of the times and vast improvements in technology, bullying can now be done anonymously and on the Web. Parents, you need not shelter your children from new technological advances; however, you must take these advances into account when you decide howyou monitor your children.

Sibling Rivalry | Why Siblings Fight and How to Prevent it!

After reading Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, I had to question whether or not this title was realistic. Don’t all siblings have difficulty getting along sometimes? The answer is yes – all brothers and sisters go through conflicts that may cause you to pull your hair out. However, there is a difference between normal sibling rivalry and behavior that is not typical between brothers and sisters. There are also plenty of ways that parents can both reduce the tension in the household and actually exacerbate the situation. Sibling Rivalry

Why do Brothers and Sisters Fight?

• Siblings fight due to developmental levels. Younger children are going to argue over “silly” things, such as sharing toys and sitting too close to each other.

• Brothers and sisters may not get along because their personalities are either too different or too similar. You also may have two children with very strong personalities.

• Siblings of children with special needs may have difficulty with understanding why their brother or sister gets more attention than they do.

• Sex and age can also cause sibling rivalry. Children of the same sex and close in age may be more competitive due to having similar interests.

• Parenting plays a major role. How you resolve conflict may impact your children’s problem-solving ability. As a parent, you also have the power to increase or decrease the tension based on how you react.

• Fighting amongst siblings is normal. How and how much they fight is the question to be answered when determining what atypical behavior is. Physical interactions between siblings are never okay and should always be addressed. You may never fully eliminate arguing between siblings, but the frequency can always be reduced. Read more

How To Keep Your Toddler Well Behaved At A Family Function

Family FunctionAren’t toddlers so fun and adorable? You’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, most of the time!”

Keeping your toddler well-behaved at a family function can be extremely difficult, especially because you don’t want to unleash the “monster parent” in front of other family members.

Keep cool! Remember that your toddler is doing the best he or she can with the limited skills they’ve got. Tantrums, throwing items, hitting and talking back are all “normal” – these behaviors show that your child is curious and “independent (or at least that is what you tell your family).

This is true to an extent. Toddlers are at an extremely curious age. They always want to know how things work and will often try things out that aren’t exactly ok (e.g. seeing if their sister’s new fish can swim in the toilet).  It’s important to remember that communication at this age is tough. In the mind of a toddler, it’s much easier to throw their plate rather than try to say, “Mommy, I am done with my food.” It’s just not going to happen!  And finally, remember that they all want to be independent at this age. They are seeing what they can do by themselves, which often leads to frustration, anger and then the dreaded tantrum. Read more

Talking to Your Teen About Peer Pressure

If you’ve recently noticed your teen changing his or her behavior, language or dress to match up with their friends, you’re not alone. Few parents are excited by the teen years’ ability to undermine the importance of family and skyrocket the value of friendships. Both are impacted by the psychological urge as well as peer pressure teens get to separate from their family and discover their own identity.Peer Pressure Blog

It is normal for your teen’s friends to become intensely influential during this time. One way of relieving this stress for you is to remember that this is a typical developmental stage (with the key word being stage). Another way is to focus your attention on making the most of the time you do spend with them. Make sure it is both educational and meaningful, with open lines of communication. They will be seeking more independence than usual, so long lectures about what to do or say will be resisted and likely just generate a lot of frustration on your end.

Before your teen dives head first into the world of peer pressure, how can you send them out with the right social equipment?

Consider these tips before talking to your teen about peer pressure:

• What are my family’s values? They won’t forget the values you teach them, even if they don’t adhere to them all of the time or as much as you’d like them to.

• What lessons have I taught them that will support good decision-making?

• What top five personal qualities do I want them to have as an adult? Parent with the end in mind.

• Talk in detail about the true dangers of smoking, drinking and drugs. State more facts than opinions. Ask for their personal definitions, and you will find out what they are learning amongst their peers.

• Be empathetic about their desire to fit in with their friends. Reinforce the positive qualities that make someone a good friend.

• Teach assertiveness skills proactively. Ask them if they are comfortable saying “no,” and if not, practice different ways to do this. Don’t forget about the impact of confident body language!

• Talk to them about their world and how they see it. More importantly, listen.

• Is there a visible pattern of disrespect between your teen and their friends? What kinds of interaction are you able to observe, and what does it tell you?

• Watch movies or TV episodes that suggest constructive ways to handle peer pressure and manage the conflict that may follow.

• Be consistent with your expectations, rules and limits. Teens will be less likely to engage in risky behaviors when they are intolerable to you.

Be there for your teen when they need you, and you will remain the biggest influence in their life.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Social Work

Talking Back to Your Tween, Who Talks Back to You | A Mother and Educator’s Perspective

talknig to a teenWhat is really happening when a preadolescent, or “tween”, talks back to you? What is the big picture, and how can you approach the situation in an optimal way for yourself and for your child, and for your relationship?

When “tweens” talk back, or overreact and act out in general, they are reflecting the strong desire to separate from you, exert control, express their selves and grow up. In other words, something natural and appropriate is occurring- now, we just need to use the situation as a starting point to guide the child in the right direction. A social worker at North Shore Pediatric Therapy explains, “As children go through developmental stages, they strive for increased competence, mastery of skills, and independence. It is a natural part of growing up to question authority.” So…how can such situations lead our children to increased development rather than increasing frustration and family tension? Read more

School Conferences: 3 Topics That Must Be Discussed

Parent teacher ConferenceParent and teacher conferences are soon approaching.  This is an exciting time for parents, as it serves as the first means of identifying how their children have been progressing thus far in the school year.  However, too many times parents leave the conferences with more questions than answers.  This is a hectic time; teachers are extremely busy, as they have twenty some conferences to prepare for themselves, and parents are often in a rush and feel unprepared.  Here are several ideas and guidelines for making the most out of a conference.

It is important for parents to make the most of the fifteen or so minutes that are planned for the conference.  Teachers usually have an idea of what they want to discuss during the meeting, and more often than not, the focus is on the child’s academic work and behavior within the classroom.  Parents, please develop and write down an outline of what you want to discuss during the meeting.  Like any structured meeting, the agenda must be decided by both parties.  It is important to identify what the current concerns are, as well as what your (as parents) ideal outcome is from having the meeting with the teacher.  Read more

Coping With Teen Parties and Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Myths About Your Teen And Parties:Beer at Teen Party

• My child is a scholar and student athlete: he or she does not have a risk of experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

• I would know if my child is under the influence.

• My child went through a drug prevention program at school and received a certificate, so I don’t have to worry.

• My child is too young to have a drug or alcohol problem.

• Letting my child and his or her friends drink at my house is safer than letting them experiment elsewhere. At least I can monitor things.

• My child went through high school without having a drug or alcohol problem, so college will be fine.

Facts About Drugs, Alcohol and Teens:

Research tells us that:

• All kinds of students can experiment with drugs or alcohol. Good grades and involvement with sports or other activities can reduce risk, but does not eliminate it.

• Our children can fool us. We can miss the signs of experimentation.

• Drug and alcohol prevention programs don’t always work. Kids can know the facts and risks of substance abuse but experiment anyway.

• Alcoholics and addicts often report that they began experimenting in middle school or even earlier.

• Drinking while underage is always against the law, and serving underage kids is against the law and creates liability for parents. Letting them drink at home is a dangerous practice.

• College presents a new set of challenges including more independence, initiation into fraternities and sororities, the presence of older students who are over twenty- one, and binge drinking.

This is all frightening! What can we as parents do to help protect our tweens and teens from drug and alcohol abuse?

What to Do For Your Teen?

• First of all, accept that any child and any family can be confronted with this problem. Educate yourself about the risks and research.

• Communicate, communicate, communicate. Start talking early to your children about the dangers of smoking, drugs and alcohol use. Have regular discussions of any topic to create a climate where your children are not afraid to bring up issues.

• Set rules and guidelines that meet your family’s needs and values, including curfews. Your child will always be ready with examples of other people’s rules, but that is irrelevant. Your family has its own rules.

• Know your child’s friends and the friends’ parents. Set up a communication network with other parents. Let them know that you want to be informed about problems. Parents that are picking up or dropping off at parties /events should be alert to problematic behaviors.

• Talk to other parents about plans, and make sure that there will be adult supervision at parties and overnights.

• Get to know your child’s teachers, guidance counselors and coaches. Familiarize yourself with the school and team rules and policies governing drug and alcohol use. Most school and sports teams have zero tolerance policies.

• Have a zero tolerance rule at home for teen alcohol use.

• While privacy is important, let your child know that his orher room is not off limits to you.

Finally:

• Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior. Unusual difficulty getting up in the morning, falling asleep in class, slipping grades, a change in peer group, loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies, or physical and emotional changes may all indicate a drug or alcohol problem.

• Remind your child over and over again that it is never OK to drive under the influence or get in the car with a driver who is under the influence.

• Have a “no questions asked” policy. If your child is at an event or party and does not feel safe, he or she can call you for a ride home at any time, no questions, asked.

• If your child is in college, make sure that he or she signs a release form so that college officials can contact you if problems arise.

• If you suspect a problem, talk to your child. Trust your judgment. Consult with your pediatrician who can do urine and blood checks. Seek out professional help if needed.

At all stages of your child’s development, educate, communicate and be proactive. Be an ongoing problem solver and source of support for your child.

Note: Jan Keller Schultz is the mother of three grown children who have made it safely into their twenties!