There are many different types of behavior modification for children. In fact, many parenting styles can be seen as types of behavior modification, although they may not be as rigid or structured as planned behavior modification programs. Usually, the major distinctions between behavior modification systems are what type of reinforcement is provided. A simple way to think about these differences is whether rewards or punishments are offered or if both are offered. While a combination of both types of reinforcement is usually a good idea, some parents are unable to offer punishments without being excessive.
There are very few differences between types of behavior modification for children, except in terms of what rewards and punishments are used and when they are implemented. It is not advisable to use food as a reward or punishment under any circumstances, as this can result in serious psychological damage. Many children respond to verbal complaints or praise, but others may need a more tangible symbol of accomplishment. In these cases, a reward might take the form of getting to do a favorite activity, while a punishment might take the form of being denied an enjoyable activity.
Behavior modification for children is typically very straightforward. The child must be given explicit and predictable boundaries and expectations, and the child must be held to these expectations. When the child fails to abide by the rules or complete expected tasks, a punishment of some sort must be offered. Alternatively, when the child goes above and beyond what is expected, rewards should be offered. Punishments and rewards need not be more substantive than complaints and compliments, but some parents find that bribery works better.
The key to behavior modification for children is consistency. As such, most different types of programs are actually offering parents different strategies for accomplishing the same goal. Maintaining consistency over time can be extremely difficult, as children do not always respond well to changes right away. Different programs offer different ways to cope with the difficulties in making positive changes.
One of the best parts of using behavior modification for children is that the child typically can participate in comprehension of what behaviors cause which results. A child can be made to understand explicitly why he or she is being punished. Behavior modification for children is therefore quite unlike behavior modification in a lab or training setting, where conditioning the animal or person must often be done without the subject's comprehension. Children can develop a desire to participate in learning good behavior, which can completely resolve any need for punishments.