In the world of ABA, there is always a great debate. Are you providing reinforcement or bribery?
By definition, reinforcement is the presentation of a preferred item, activity or interaction that maintains and strengthens the response in the future.
For example: a child is screaming and reaching for the cookie. You prompt the child to clearly and calmly state ‘cookie’, then can have a small piece of cookie. If the child chose to use their words first, then a full cookie or two would have been delivered. If the cookies were truly ‘reinforcing’, then you would see the child use more words and less screaming to gain access.
This also happens in the classroom, when one child is struggling with their work. They throw it on the ground, start crying or screaming, or bothering a neighbor. As a teacher, you would analyze the situation to determine the function of the behavior. Based on the information I have provided, I would assume that teaching the child to ask for ‘help’ would be the function. Therefore if you prompt to ask for ‘help’, and they state ‘help’, you can help them briefly. Then prompt for the child to ask for ‘more help’. Continue to provide lots of opportunities to practice asking for help, instead of engaging in problem behavior! You, the teacher extraordinaire, will be teaching your student(s) lifelong skills!
Reinforcement is provided to increase the positive behavior. Bribery is promised in the midst of problem behavior, in the hopes that it will stop…. however never teaches the new, appropriate skill.
Bribery, in the last example, would look like: teacher approaches the tantrumming child, and says ‘if you stop crying and throwing, you can have a break.’ Then the child learns that if I tantrum, I can have access to a break… potentially shaping up a poor chain of events!
Reinforcement is the key to growing appropriate skills!!!!
Keep up the great work teachers 🙂