TIP of the WEEK: The Trouble with Consequences

October 17, 2014

When our kids act out in school or in the community it isn’t unusual for people unfamiliar with the syndrome to turn to consequences to correct their behavior. The problem is that negative consequences don’t work. Punishments have little to no effect on changing behaviors and can often add anxiety that often cause more of the unwanted behaviors.

 There are four types of consequences:

  • Penalty to LOSE something DESIRED- at best this approach is ineffective. At worst it will trigger stronger behaviors.  
  • Punishment to RECEIVE something UNDESIRED- equally as ineffective.

  • Negative reinforcement to AVOID something DESIRED- there are times where this approach is necessary if the person is not safe enough to engage in the desired behavior but, as a rule, this is not an effective approach.
  • Positive reinforcement to GAIN something DESIRED- this is the most effective for the long and short term. Using positive reinforcement strengthens skills as well as builds stronger relationships.

Remember that all behavior is about communication. When faced with undesired behaviors, offer alternative ways to communicate. It is likely that your child is trying to express  dissatisfaction, feelings of being overwhelmed or confusion or feelings of discomfort.  Use compassion. Ask what the child needs to feel safe.

Patrice Carroll
Manager of PWS Services

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