Parent education empowers caregivers with formal knowledge and information about problems their child may be facing. The information provided through parent education might be related to how the problem developed or what types of factors have kept the problem going. This can help caregivers understand their roles in the therapeutic process.
Attending is a parent practice that facilitates high-quality time between parents and children. Therapists help parents use attending to improve the quality of the overall parent-child relationship. Within attending, the child picks an activity, and the parent joins this activity in a very positive manner. While they are attending, parents are encouraged to be as non-critical as possible while also providing occasional praise.
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.
Praise is a helpful parenting tool that involves looking for and recognizing positive child behaviors. Good praise increases the likelihood of a positive behavior occurring again. This type of praise occurs right after the behavior, is specific, and is genuine. For example, “Great work sharing the giraffe book with your brother; I know it’s one of your favorites!”
Time-out is a period of time when all reinforcement is taken away from the youth after he or she has shown negative behavior. Therapists work with caregivers to effectively administer time-out for behaviors which need to be extinguished immediately. Caregivers will role-play and identify barriers to using the technique with the therapist before using at home.
Physical objects (i.e. toys and stickers) or desired activities (i.e. time on the computer) can be given to children by caregivers in the form of tangible rewards when a desired task or behavior is completed as requested. These rewards are useful in promoting positive behavior, particularly behavior that has been difficult for the child to perform in the past. Often tangible rewards are paired with praise so that eventually the concrete reward can be “faded”(used less and less) and the praise is rewarding enough to encourage positive behavior.
Clear and specific instructions that are likely to be understood and acted upon are known as commands. Commands explain what the caregiver’s expectations are in a specific way that increases the likelihood of it being followed. Example, “Please put the dirty clothes on the floor into the hamper” rather than “Clean your floor.” Sometimes commands are used to set limits on a child’s behavior. Example, “Come home by 10:00 p.m.” Rather than “Don’t be out late.”
Stimulus control involves dentifying specific triggers which may cause negative and problematic behaviors in youth. After identification of these triggers, parents are guided to change these through anticipation and replacement.