Community Built Knowledge Base => Library: Tools and skills workshops => Topic started by: Skip on October 12, 2009, 09:19:13 AM

Title: 1.18 | Communicate: Reinforcing Good Behavior and Positive Reinforcement
Post by: Skip on October 12, 2009, 09:19:13 AM
Tools: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement

"If a child lives with approval, he learns to live with himself." ~ Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD

In any relationship, one of the ways to have more of what we want is to reinforce good behaviors.  It's a simple concept.  Yet many of us overlook this obvious aspect of human psychology and get so tangled up in the negative. 

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” A damaging lie is hidden in the timeworn chant.  The truth is words mold us, torment us and define us. Children, particularly, are susceptible to the impact of a parent’s words.  As people grow and develop socially, mentally and physically, they are affected and shaped by people’s opinions. This is often part of the struggle of a pwBPD

Sometimes, we actually reinforce the bad behavior - enable it.  Think about it.  When was the last time you were more  accommodating or more attentive because your partner was acting badly?  And then hoped that negative reinforcement would somehow improve things?

Positive reinforcements motivates. We have all heard the 5x rule for teaching children (i.e., 5 positive reinforcers for every negative reinforcer).  We have all seen or read the management training material on how to motivate others through positive reinforcement.  If a person is not always feeling like they are being judged they will be more willing to do the things that need to be done and do them to the fullest.  And positive reinforcement is the good way to fuel self-confidence... .something many pwBPD lack. In fact, negative reinforcement often only works in conjunction with ample positive reinforcement. 

After months (or years) of dealing with troubled behavior, the last thing you might feel like doing is being positive. But in living with a pwBPD, it is crucial that, even during conversations aimed at correcting behavior, you keep your tone positive

The purpose of this workshop is to discuss the practical application and realities of creating an environment of positive communication

Everyone benefits from feeling loved and accepted, and you can communicate those feelings in the way you speak



Setting the Tempo

Instilling basic healthy values in the household is part of the positive environment we want to help create for our relationship.  Everyone will do better in a home of encouragement, approval, acceptance, praise than in a home of ridicule, jealousy, shame.  Someone has to lead the turn around if this does not currently exist in your home.  That is more likely to happen if you take the lead.  Speaking in positive terms positively, showing compassion, and looking the person in the eye (rather than mumbling something as we go out the door) are all good things.

Rewarding vs. bribing

Reinforcers are very important.  But reinforcers vary from person to person. You should be aware of the reinforcers that your loved one values, and use them. Don't be frivolous - people see through it and it will have no meaning

Use rewards when there is good behavior.  But don't confuse rewarding with bribing. You should never “pay” for good behavior” or have an expectation of reimbursement for good behavior

Intermittent/varied rewards work best

Labeling is Disabling

Its easy to do - and it burns.  Labeling has a "forever" and "always" implication.  It says permanently flawed

Incorrect:  You're a liar. You were not visiting your sister yesterday as you said

Correct:  " I hear you telling me you were at your sisters yesterday. I am confused, though. I called there 2 times and your sister, and then your nephew told me you never showed up. Can you help me make sense of this confusion?"

Setting Limits in a Positive Way

Dr. Haim Ginott's basic plan:

  • Recognize and acknowledge the desire.

  • State the limit calmly and clearly.

  • Point out ways that their desire may be partially fulfilled.

  • Allow the person to express the resentment that arises when limits are imposed and coach them to find a positive side to it (e.g., don't let it just be a loss). "I know you would like to buy ______, we can start putting money aside and _____."

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: united for now on October 14, 2009, 12:49:58 PM
Trying to use positives to create change is very powerful stuff. It takes the focus off of the bad (what you want less off) and validates the good (what you want more of). Teachers use this in the classroom to modify disruptions, winning coaches do this with their athletes to improve performance, skillful diplomats use this to forge compromises, and successful managers use this to create an atmosphere of teamwork amongst employees. We can do the same, but it requires us to shift our focus away from the glass being half empty and to try to find the ways that the glass is half full. It comes from inside of us. A change in thinking. A shift in what we focus on.

As difficult as it seems, it is possible to stop making things worse and begin to make them better. We can take the lead on this, but it requires patience that things won't change over night and the determination to stay focused on our goals.

Keep in mind - nothing will change unless we make some changes in what we can control - ourselves... .

How do you think you could go about being more positive?

Is this something you feel you can control?

What changes would you need to implement in yourself to carry this out?

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: briefcase on October 14, 2009, 04:06:46 PM
I have to make an effort to remember to do this.  It's easy for me to forget this essential tool, especially when I feel "tangled up in the negative," as Skip puts it.  For me, the "negative" is usually unexpressed feelings of anger or resentment towards my wife.  When something is gnawing away at me, I tend to be withdrawn or aggressive, depending on my mood.

It seems odd to offer positive reinforcement for what would amount to "normal" behavior in most relationships.  But, isn't that what we're after if we are staying?  When I remember to do it, I will try to express appreciation when my wife respectfully raises issues with me or when we have a civil discussion about a sensitive topic.

I also try to notice what she did around the house every day and express appreciation for her work.

This is a great topic, and I really look forward to hearing how others offer positive reinforcement or rewards.

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: dados76 on October 14, 2009, 05:10:00 PM
sometimes i do this real explicitly... ex:

my partner HATES going to the store... and usually melts down about it... sometimes at the store... when he does come with... and doesnt melt down i try to make a point to do something we both like with him later that day... or getting him a little present like a plant or something...

withholding affection with him... being mad at him for melting down if it happens and leaving him alone for the day... usually sets off a week of extreme up and down and bad feelings... if he does melt down... i leave him to do his thing... and sometimes that means he walks home... and maybe we talk about it later...

helps tho... that hes usually really excited about any little present or treat or something... $1 slinky is a BIG DEAL for him

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: Randi Kreger on October 28, 2009, 10:57:05 AM
This is a great topic. The discussion about reinforcement is an essential one, because it is not just a tool but an umbrella concept. For example, one reason we let boundaries/limits slide is that we get negatively reinforced when we try to set them. *But the biggest problem is this: I would guess that the majority of non-BPs in some way actually positively reinforce their borderline family member for violating their limits.*  ONCE LIMITS ARE SET, POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT IS 99% OF THE BATTLE. I'll give you an example of how a mother sabotages her own boundary.Tacy has told her adult daughter Betsy that she cannot call her at work more than three times a day unless there is an emergency. Betsy is living at home and is supposed to be looking for work. This scenario happens the day after Tacy set the limit; Tacy is at work and Betsy is home, not feeling well. * 8 a.m. to 12 pm: Betsy calls Tacy twice for various reasons. * 1 pm: Betsy makes her third phone call of the day. Tacy reminds her of the new rule.* 3 pm: Betsy calls again. In an irritated voice, Tacy reminds her that she wasn’t supposed to call again. Betsy said it was an emergency because she needed to know when Tracy would be home (something Tracy had already told her). The conversation gets a bit heated and Betsy hangs up on her mom.* 3:05 pm: Betsy calls to demand an apology for the way Tacy spoke with her. Tacy does, figuring that now she’ll get some peace. * 4 pm: Betsy calls because she can’t figure out how to work the DVR and watch a program she recorded. She’s feeling upset and needs something to do, and she’s frustrated because she can’t get it to work. Tacy sighs and explains how it works, resolving to have another discussion about her limits. That night, Betsy accuses her mother of being abusive because she’s home alone and Tacy doesn’t even care. Tacy tries to explain and thinks, Limits just aren’t worth it!OK, now, let’s take away the words and look at the behavior.* 8 a.m. to 12 pm: Betsy calls Tacy twice and uses up her allotment.* 1 pm: Betsy calls again, Tacy talks to her.* 3 pm: Betsy calls again, Tacy talks to her.* 3: 05 pm: Betsy calls again, Tacy talks to her * 4 pm: Betsy calls again, Tacy talks to her.    That night, Tacy believes that boundaries don’t work. Wow, that is a different way of looking at it! *Tacy’s limit was ineffective not because Betsy wasn’t observing it, but because Tacy wasn’t observing her own limit.*Here is a slow-motion instant replay. The 3 pm call was The Test. Tacy took the bait and spoke with her daughter, not observing her own So, what should Tracy have done when Betsy called? She should have determined the answer to that question before she set the limit during the planning process (I am going to be doing a workshop about planning for limit setting.  I strongly recommend that people have a plan for limit setting because your limits WILL be tested in something called “extinction burst,” which I can go through later.)If Tracy doesn’t have voicemail or a secretary, once she hears Betsy’s voice, she could say in a neutral tone, “We’ll talk when I get home tonight.” Some limits need to be spelled out in detail to include specific definitions, such as what constitutes an “emergency.” I look forward to talking more about this. There is much more to positive and negative reinforcement than limits, too. Randi Kreger(This example is from my new book "The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder "

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: united for now on May 21, 2010, 06:57:43 AM
Clients unintentionally positively reinforced their therapists for ineffective treatment while punishing their therapists for effective therapy. In other words, therapists were unwittingly under the control of consequences outside their awareness, just as all humans are. For example, the research team noticed through its review of audio taped sessions that therapists would “back off” pushing for change of behavior when the client’s response was one of anger, or emotional withdrawal, or shame, or threatened self-harm. Similarly, clients would reward the therapist with interpersonal warmth or engagement if the therapist allowed them to change the topic of the session from one they didn’t want to discuss to one they did want to discuss.


Understanding how positive reinforcement works is helpful... .

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: marlo6277 on May 22, 2010, 05:31:37 PM
I do make an attempt at positive reinforcement.  Mostly with my skids... .Here is an example:

You've had a stressful day, you really just want to relax.  You are alone with the kids and you brief them - "I just want to let you guys know that I'm pretty tired today and I would really like your cooperation for a nice quiet evening".

You prepare dinner, etc... .Then you realize that the kids are being "too quiet" (you know that feeling... .uh oh... .what are they doing?)

So you go to check up on them and you see that one is reading quietly in her room, the other is doing homework and the third is playing the DS using headphones! WOWSERS!

So you think... .PHEW! Wow, am I glad that they aren't getting into anything!

Then you go back to fixing dinner a little more relieved... .

I have made a concious effort to change my actions.  When something like this happens, I will tiptoe over and whisper "thanks for being so good" and give them a kiss on the head.  Or I'll write a little "note" on a post it and 'pass it' like we are passing notes in class. And when they look up, I'll give them a wink and a smile.

Sometimes it works... .but then there are times when that is all the child needs to begin acting out suddenly... .almost like they suddenly need immediate attention and will begin disruption when you acknowledge their great behaviour.

Then sometimes I have a thought... .Uh oh... .I should have let sleeping dogs lie... .

Then I begin to struggle in my own decision to 'disturb' them to reinforce their good behaviour... .

But I'm still willing to keep trying... .most of the time.

Title: Re: TOOLS: Reinforcing good behavior, positive reinforcement
Post by: Randi Kreger on May 28, 2010, 07:31:23 PM
BTW no book reader of mine has said anything about it, so I think no one figured it out... .but I got the names Betsy and Tacy from a series of books I read when I was a kid. Good books to give to someone with a child.  www.amazon.com/dp/0064400964?tag=cheapdiscou03-20