Teaching Parents to Use Positive Reinforcement Skills

  • Jeffrey A. Kelly
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


While teaching abusive parents nonviolent methods to control child misbehavior is often an immediate, necessary aim of child-management training, it is rarely a sufficient form of family intervention. Simply stated, therapists should never train parents to use attention withdrawal or time out procedures without concurrently teaching them how to reinforce desirable child behavior. Extinction-based management techniques are most effective when a child learns not only that certain misbehaviors will not result in reinforcement, but also that other desirable actions will be noticed and responded to in a positive way. In addition, since abusive parents provide less verbal attention to their children than nonabusive parents (Burgess & Conger, 1978), it might well be considered unfair or unethical to instruct them simply to reduce further the amount of attention given to their youngsters. Therefore, a clinical aim is to assist parents in altering and redirecting the attention they provide, from negative notice contingent upon child misbehavior to demonstrative positive reinforcement contingent upon appropriate child behavior.


Child Behavior Target Behavior Desirable Action Abusive Parent Positive Attention 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey A. Kelly
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Mississippi Medical CenterJacksonUSA

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