Incentive Beh Mod Program ODD - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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Incentive Beh Mod Program ODD

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Incentive Based Behavioral Modification Program for Oppositional Defiant Children

  • Many oppositional children are seeking greater control in their own lives as a means of dealing with the lack of power and control they otherwise feel in their own families, school, and the community.
  • Many oppositional behaviors are attempts to get validation (not just attention) from adults.
  • The parents and family of oppositional children, for various reasons, are often ineffective at giving appropriate validation and attention- they usually feel out of control themselves (and not just with their oppositional children.
  • Oppositional children and their parents (or teachers) end up in a power struggle where both lose.
  • Punishment usually has become the mode of discipline despite its ineffectiveness.
  • Placating the child often becomes the only alternative to avoid conflict.
  • Anger (and its relative Resentment) usually becomes the predominant emotion, sabotaging the relationship.

  • Create real (and appropriate) power and control for both children and parents.
  • Create means for the child to get validation.
  • Defuse the power struggle and create the "Win, Win" situation.
  • Remove punishment as a mode of discipline and replace with reinforcement/reward principles.
  • Remove conflict from the relationship and replace with contracts.
  • Remove anger as relevant to the relationship.

  • Define GOALS and REWARDS as different but related.  Punishments are not a part of this plan.  Goals are behaviors that must occur in frequent and consistent ways, that once achieved result in Rewards.

  • Never take away any achieved "points."  In this plan, children never lose credit for achieved goals for misbehavior.  Misbehavior results in the lack of progress toward goals (and resultant rewards), but does not discredit the children's positive behavior.  This avoids the focus on punishment.

  • Quantify and define children's behaviors desired by parents/adults.  Avoid subjective definitions of behavior- example, "Be good- don't be bad", "Be more helpful around the house."  Clear definitions of desirable behaviors would be, "Do all your homework before any TV," "Get to school on time or early every day," "If you are going to be half an hour late or more, call and let us know," "Put away your laundry before going to bed," "Do all your chores before you go out to play."  Quantify means yes or no, not "sort of" or "later" or "intend to."

  • The CHILD (through negotiation with the adult), chooses his/her own rewards.  If toys are attractive to him/her...if money is...if privileges...if video games...if excursions...  The principle is that these rewards have to be meaningful to the child- not to the adult.  The child should be encouraged and led to minor, more substantial, and major rewards.  (see following page for an example).

  • The ADULT (through negotiation with the child) sets the short term, mid-term, and long term goals.  If a clean room is attractive to him/her...if chores are...if homework is...if school attendance is...if attendance at family functions...  The principle is that the goals are meaningful to the adult now, and will have meaning for the child in life as he/she integrates them into his/her lifestyle and expectations.  The adult should pick minor frequency & consistency behavior goals, more substantial goals, and major goals.

  • More substantial and major behavioral goals may be matched up with bonus rewards- such as more money, more points to redeem, or a special excursion, privilege, or present.

  • Once the adult and the child agrees on the rewards and goals, then a CONTRACT can be made (writing it up and having it signed is recommended).  With the contract, the adult does not need to be angry at the child or punish him/her; the adult only has to adhere to his/her part of the contract.  If the child holds to his/her end, then he/she accumulates the points, achieves the goals, and gets the rewards.  If he/she doesn't, then he/she doesn't!  The adult has to do nothing, except not sabotage the contract.  Sabotaging the contract, would be finding ways to save the child from getting the consequences of not behaving (no points, no goals, no rewards).  Oppositional children can be very manipulative and tend to be experts at getting adults to change the contract to save them from the choices they have made.  DON'T DO IT!  If the adult "saves" the child from his/her choice, the adult effectively undermines him/herself and any possibility of the child learning a sense of responsibility.

While this plan can be very effective, it depends on the adult following through.  In addition, not all children are oppositional because of their need for power and control.  Sometimes, they are oppositional because of the adult's controlling.  And, sometimes, they are oppositional because of profoundly adverse family issues.


*Note: Totals are accumulative, that is, the totals are for if no points are traded for rewards prior to the achievement of the goals.
- Frequency and/or consistency should be rewarded.
- The greater the goal, the greater the reward.  Achieving minor goals should result in minor rewards;    more substantial goals have more substantial rewards; major goals have major rewards.
- Children choose rewards (through negotiation with adults).
- Adults choose goals (through negotiation with children).
3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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