Got a kid who’s hooked on videogames?
1. Set a timer to go off when they have played for the designated amount of time;
2. From the moment the timer goes off, they have one minute to stop playing the game;
3. If they comply, they can play again the next day. If they don’t, they lose the game for a day.
“This requires only a minute or two of your time,” Mr. Bergstrom says. “If applied properly, the children will learn quickly. With compliance there will be less strife and arguing. Let the timer and the rules be the bad guy rather than you, the parent.”
See the clear When-Do-Get sequence. When (the Timer goes off) Do (continue playing for another minute) Get (the punishment of no game play tomorrow). Or When (the Timer goes off) Do (cease playing within a minute) Get (the reward of game play tomorrow).
Note, also, the nice compact combination of reward or punishment that is completely contingent upon the kid’s behavior within one minute of the timer. As soon as the timer sounds, the kid knows she’s playing with her future and it is all her responsibility.
Finally, note as Mr. Bergstrom did, the kid is focused on personal control of behavior rather than fighting with the parent over fairness or just a little more or whatever. Here, there’s no clash between Reinforcement and Attribution as can often happen. The kid is in a Persuasion Box and knows everything depends upon her action.
Consider possible enhancements.
Who sets the timer? Realize that you can still inject yourself into the kid’s attributional world if you have to control the timer for game play. If the kid sneaks in a game without you setting the timer, then the situation and the reinforcing contingencies are your fault and the kid gets to perform the bad behavior, plus learning how to make you look and feel bad. Now, you’re in the kid’s Persuasion Box.
Add another element to your timer. The kid has to set the timer before playing. If you find her playing without a timer or if she misuses the timer (sets it too long, for example), a punishing contingency follows. Then you can monitor this on a somewhat random schedule so the kid never knows when you might find out. Of course, at the start of this persuasion, you need to be a bit more vigilant.
Consider adding a diary or a log. Every time the kid plays, she has to write down the start and end times and the games she played. You might also have her write down what she liked and didn’t like about the game and how she felt after playing. You’ve now got a record in her own hand that accounts for her activity. See any applications for that?
Finally, realize that an Reinforcement Persuasion Box you create still requires you to participate with it. You’ve got to monitor application and compliance and you’ve got to be consistent with it. The reason Reinforcement fails is almost always due to the inconsistency of the parent running the Box. It’s relatively easy to create good Rules. The hard part is good enforcement of those Rules.
The big lesson here is not that you can use Reinforcement, but that you use it correctly. Bergstrom’s Persuasion Box is effective and efficient. If you enforce it properly, it will work. Make sure you understand that before you start it. Otherwise you will fail and look stupid doing it.
If You Can’t Succeed, Don’t Try.
More Is the Enemy of Less.
All People Always Resist Significant Change.
You Can Get Farther with a Kind Word and a Big Stick Than with Either Alone.