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Differential Reinforcement

Differential Reinforcement

Differential Reinforcement 
involves teaching caregivers how to reward specific, positive behaviors while ignoring unwanted, problematic behaviors. Therapists work with caregivers to appropriately and actively ignore oppositional behaviors. In the meantime, caregivers are taught to praise and reward positive behaviors. After some role-play and rehearsal, caregivers may be asked to do this at home while monitoring their youth’s behavior.

Note: Although this technique is a part of treatment approaches shown effective for children of all ages, most of its support comes from studies on children under the age of 13.

“What should my therapist be doing?”

  • Explaining how rewarding good behaviors will increase positive behaviors while not rewarding/punishing unwanted behaviors will decrease negative behaviors
  • Teaching you skills to promote your child’s positive behaviors to replace and reduce your child’s negative behaviors
  • Involving your child during the treatment sessions

“What should I be doing?”

  • Practicing skills inside and outside of therapy sessions
  • Ignoring negative behaviors while praising and rewarding positive behaviors
  • Talking to your therapist as needed (e.g. What should I do if my child begins to engage in violent behavior in order to gain attention?)

“How will I know it is working?”

  • Your child engages in negative behaviors less often
  • Your child engages in positive behaviors more often
  • There is an overall improvement in your relationship with your child (i.e. you will feel less angry with your child due to negative behaviors)