This website is based on the theory of operant conditioning and more specifically positive reinforcement.
Operant conditioning (also referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. An association is made between a specific behavior and a consequence for that behavior. When a reward or a favorable outcome occurs after a behavior then it is more likely that this behavior will occur again in the future (positive reinforcement). The term “positive” does not mean something “good” but rather relates to the “addition” of a reinforcing stimulus (for example a sticker on a behavior chart). In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior (for example a sticker stuck on a behavior chart following desirable behavior). This makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. For example, a child does her homework and receives a sticker on her sticker chart. That affirmation serves as positive reinforcement and may make it more likely that she will do her homework the next day without you reminding her. When the behavior occurs again and again it eventually becomes habit.
Miltenberger states that ‘reinforcement is the process in which a behavior is strengthened by the immediate consequence that reliably follows its occurrence. A behavior is strengthened when it occurs more frequently. If a child behaves in a certain manner (called “target behavior”) and as a result of this behavior he is awarded a gold sticker on his behavior chart then he is more likely to behave in that same manner again.
For young children getting a sticker on their behavior chart will be enough to improve their behavior. For older children this will not be as effective. A more effective method is to decide that if the older child earns a certain number of stickers on the chart then he can get a certain reward such as a small toy that he really wants. This is based on the theory of token economy. Tokens are used as a method of strengthening a behavior. They mimic other naturally occurring reinforcement systems such as the use of money.
There are many free printable behavior charts on this site. Many of them can be personalized with your child’s name, photo and your own list of “target behaviors”.
Throughout the site you will find tips on how to use behavior charts and how to ensure that they are effective.
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- Raymond G. Miltenberger. (2008). Behavior Modification. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing.
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