//Rewards and Punishments vs Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems

Rewards and Punishments vs Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems

If you work with kids or have kids of your own, then you know it’s a jungle out there for kids with social, emotional, and behavioural challenges.  And it’s not a walk in the park for parents, educators, mental health professionals, staff in facilities, or law enforcement professionals either. Working with kids who have behaviour challenges is tough.

Punitive practices are counterproductive

Punitive practices such as detentions, suspensions, expulsions, restraint and seclusion are counterproductive, and with some kids those practices can propel them down the very costly and unnecessary pipeline to prison.

Experience shows that “rewards and punishments” have little impact on long term behaviour change. Educators, professionals and parents need better options to influence long term and lasting changes in behaviour.

We need to change our approach to challenging behaviour and end the counterproductive REDSS practices in schools (Restraint, Expulsion Detention, Suspension, and Seclusion). These interventions solve no problems and teach no skills.

We want to suggest 4 things you can do, now.

1. Challenge the view that: “kids do well if they want to do well”

Challenge the view that Kids do well if they want to do well: that notion isn’t supported by the research that has accumulated on behaviourally challenging kids over the past 40-50 years. This view of behaviour characterises kids as:

  • Attention-seeking
  • Manipulative
  • Coercive
  • Unmotivated
  • Limit-testing
  • “He’s yanking my chain”
  • “He’s pushing my buttons”
  • “He’s going to have to hit rock bottom before he learns how to swim”
  • “He needs to learn who’s boss

Those characterisations, simply lead to interventions aimed at making kids want to do well and modifying their behaviour, primarily through rewarding and punishing.  It doesn’t work.

2. Change your view to: “kids do well if they can do well”

Under this view of behaviour if the kid could do well, he or she would do well…so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what the research tells us is really getting in the way: lagging skills and unsolved problems. A link to the research is here.

We help kids a whole lot better when we focus on solving those problems and teaching those skills than when we focus primarily on modifying the behaviours that those problems and lagging skills are causing.

Many popular interventions neither solve problems nor teach skills, including stickers, time-out, privilege loss, detention, suspension, expulsion, spanking, restraint, and seclusion.

3. Familiarise yourself with non-punitive, non-adversarial interventions

Instead, familiarise yourself with the many non-punitive, non-adversarial interventions that focus on relationship-building, communication, skill-enhancement, and collaboration.

You’ll find extensive resources on one approach called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) here. Other non-punitive, non-adversarial approaches, including Social Thinking, are listed here.

4. Attend training

The founder of Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS), Dr Ross Greene, was training in Australia in June/July 2019.

You can view photos of Ross’s 2019 Australia tour on our Facebook page here.

Ross will be back for a tour of both Australia and New Zealand in 2020.  Join our mailing list via the slot towards the bottom of our Home page and we’ll keep you posted.

Dr Greene’s not for profit Lives in Balance has a lot of free training resources on their website.

All the CPS paperwork, including an editable version of the ALSUP, can be found here.
A range of podcasts about CPS to support your learning, can be found here.
Information about further training in CPS, can be found here.  

Contact us if you have any questions  (02) 5105 5262 or email peter@socialmind.com.au

Our thanks to Lives In The Balance and Dr Ross Greene.