Reward system, should I even bother?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Ktllc, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    This new therapist (has been coming to the house 4 times now) is really insisting on a reward system. Ponpons in a jar. Every time I (or therapist during the session) see the kids behave in a good manner, they get a ponpon.
    I told him that we went down this road before (with stickers) and it was a disaster! V was obsessing over the stickers and it created so much anxiety that we stopped.
    So dear therapist decides to try during the session tonight and see for himself. Guess what happened? V was all about getting those ponpons and it got worse by the minute. He could not even play anymore toward the end.
    therapist had to go behind the kids' backs and put more ponpons in the jar in order to reach the red line and give them a small prize. I was wondering how he was going to deal with this "minor" detail: the fact that there was not enough good behaviors to reach the line. Although I have to say that the boys were NOT misbehaving. V just has a hard time playing cooperatively...
    therapist saw that it was not a success but told me that, at first, kids are all about getting a ponpon. It is normal.
    I replied that the problem is that V is only going to obsess more over time. It is unlikely to get better... but what do I know?
    So after talking with husband over the phone, I thought well let's try and see what happens after a few days. Right? Let's be open minded or prove the therapist wrong. It's like I'm teaching the therapist instead of my son. But then... one never knows. I could be wrong, it could work. (don't really believe that. just keep reading).
    I find a jar in the kitchen and some flat marbles that we had for decoration purposes.
    Tell the kids that we'll use this as I don't really want to buy anything. As I draw the line on the small jar (so that few marbles are required to get a small prize), V gets VERY anxious about the whole thing. What if we lose the marbles before putting it in the jar? What if the prize is not what he wants? What if they don't make it to the line? etc...
    I tried to tell him not to worry and put them all to bed.
    Now, as I am typing, V came in the office saying he can't sleep. What if he is being good and I don't see him? What if he is being good at school, then I can't give him a marble? And on and on. I ended up telling him that if it worries him too much, we don't have to do the reward system. V break in tears and tells me he can't deal with this change.
    Now I want to cry! My poor little V tries so hard to behave and he does!! I am SO proud of him. At school he rarely pull a card for misbehaving. He gives his best and when he does not do the work it's because he's having an off day, not because he is not behaving. Same at home.
    I can't believe I let this therapist go this far and actually make V cry!!!
    I am pi$$ed. husband will be home next week and he wants to have a talk with therapist! That is a rare thing for husband to actually get involved with V's therapists. He listens to what I relay but let things up to me. He is gone too much so he simply trusts me. If I ask him to be there for certain appointments, he will be there. But we simply can't afford to stop the busisness too often.
    Either this therapist has to change his approach or he is out the door. I know he wants to help but the whole behavioral approach is not approriate for V.
  2. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I think 5 is too young for such a vague goal as "behave in a good manner". That is to big of a concept for kids that age to grasp in a rewards system. Is difficult child going to learn that "being good" only counts when there is someone watching who will give a reward? It is frustrating for him because he doesn't know what counts and what doesn't. He will obsess and hang on to those moments he knows does count and worry about what the rules are which will get him pushing for recognition over the littlest behavior.

    My guess is that the therapist wants to teach difficult child to be mindful of good behaviors. If he insists on a rewards system, I would ask that he change it to a more visible goal oriented one such as a life skills system. A "pompon" for picking up toys at the end of the day, being dressed and ready to go on time in the morning, hanging up coat, brushing teeth without being asked more then once (two ponpons if done before being asked), leaving school without a misbehaving card, helping set/clear the table, helping round up laundry, folding towels, etc. Come up with a list of things that he KNOWS will earn the ponpons instead of him wondering what being good is or trying to describe his own list of what counts. (Know what I mean??)
  3. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean! It has to be measurable for him. The thing, all of what you mentioned: V does, willingly. That's why we don't have behavior issues anymore. I often have to remind him to check his board (some sort of picture schedule and check what he has done) but then he goes and does everything.
    I'm not having a therapist into our home because there is behaviors issues.
    I wish someone could guide me on helping V be more flexible in his thinking and interaction with people. That's what creates conflicts within siblings and the family in general.
    Maybe I want to do too much too fast with him... He has done so much progress since we use the visuals, put more thoughts into transitions, take time to explain what is going on around him.
    I was hoping to move to a next step. Not really being sure what the next step should be.
    To be honest, I don't belong in this forum anymore. Not like I did when I fisrt joined. But it is just such a wealth of knowledge and kind people.
    If it wasn't for all of your support, V would not be functioning so good today. But his Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) traits are also showing more and more.
    At 5, there is so much hope and I know his brain can be shaped all the while respecting who he is. This reward system is an insult to who he is. He needs something measurable, meaningful and consistent. Something to help him grow, not stress him more.
  4. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Tell the therapist you will NOT be doing a reward explanation needed so therefore no argument...that's just the way it is. Keep doing what you're doing since it IS working. As for pushing himtoo fast, my only advice is BABY STEPS. Let the "new" behavior become strong habit and add ONE thing at a time, let that become habit and so on. He's doing great. Bask in that. Build on a turtle's pace. You're doing great and no therapist or other professional should undermine that. YOU are in charge, not them. They may have a degree in book knowledge but you have LIFE EXPERIENCE....not to mention a very trustworthy mommy gut.
  5. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I agree with no need for a reward system. It will not help with the flexibility of socializing with others. That will take time. You still belong here, you just have a new challenge. Your focus had changed to the next step and I think there are people here who can explain ways to meet your newest challenge.

    My input is to take the time to address each situation in a constant predictable way. (Hard to not let some things slide when you are busy). Make a plan on where and how to address the inflexible thinking. Will there be a certain place in your home to remove him to? Removing from the location helps to reduce negative feelings and see things as they really are. Out of earshot of siblings? Do you think a quiet time to think about the situation will help before talking about it? Have a list of standard questions. What were you doing before the incident? What happened? Why do you think that happened? How does that make you feel? How does that make the other person feel? Is that what you wanted to happen? What can you do or say to make everyone feel better? If you are prepared with some questions ahead of time that can be used in any situation, it will be easier for you to start the "investigation" of the situation avoiding the, "how do we even start with this one" feeling.

    Maybe helping him learn about feelings is the next step? You can get a chart showing facial expressions to ask him to point to how he feels. He then learns the word to his emotion.
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    The biggest problem with the reward system is that kids on the spectrum have an expecially hard time with "delayed gratification". I'm not saying they are like dogs, but in some ways, the concepts that work in dog training have merit (and success)... including the fact that when using rewards, they have to be literally instant. V is smarter than a pup, so you could try something like... using a tiny candy as the accumulator in the reward jar... and however many are accumulated, he gets to have. This way, he can "see" what reward he is getting, and each positive item he does has a positive impact on what he gets - but it's a direct one-to-one relationship. not some obscure concept.

    I've used miniature chocolate chips or mini-mints, for example.
  7. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Sorry to hear you feel you are only an honorary guest now :) But it's good, really great, that you have no behaviour issues with V now. I am not jealous, honestly!!
    It seems to me, from my very inexpert level of understanding, that you are going to have a very hard time with the rigid thinking. My sense of it is that what underlies it is anxiety and that what V needs to dispel the anxiety is for things to be very certain, all explained (with visuals or whatever) and, really, very rigid. How do you make him less anxious? Any move to break him of his need for detail and security will automatically make him more anxious.
    Actually, I've been thinking about what underlies J's explosiveness and I think it is a kind of rigidity. I keep saying that J is not Asperger's or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and I (and everyone else around) really don't think he is - he doesn't at all have concrete, literal thinking, for example, but is flexible and imaginative on that level - but he has these explosions when he is rigidly attached to what he wants to do or thinks should happen, etc. The way to get him out of the explosion (which he will usually do quite quickly now if the right approach is used) is to move him on, make him forget, tempt him with some other, more attractive prospect - for example, this morning he didn't want to go to school (unusual) because we got up late and he didn't have enough time to play with his figurines... started clutching the sofa and kicking, saying he wasn't going to school this morning, he was going to stay at home and play. I said "Oh do you want to wear your tennis shoes today?" and going on about that and he agreed to drop the explosion - he loves wearing tennis shoes rather than "real" shoes.
    IS there any mileage in this for V? If he is really anxious/rigid about something, is there a way, slowly and perhaps painfully, to get him to drop it by promise of something else nice? So that it could increasingly become a habit?
    You've done SO much with him, come so far with him, got a really early diagnosis through your persistence and implemented all these strategies that work. The therapist really doesn't know or understand V like you do and of course you must trust yourself. Is the therapist open to listening, at least? Or does he feel like he has to be the expert, the one who knows? It's great that your husband wants to talk to him...
    Anyway, bon courage. Really it's fantastic how far you've come. I don't even have a real diagnosis yet!!
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hey, I never liked this exact system for our type of kids because with 3 of them I had to do it with all of them or none of them and then I was like a juggler in action. I tried 3 different colored marbles, three different colored tickets, different colored monopoly money, then I even made up fake money with their pictures on it! They would just steal each others tokens or lose them and then get all upset. I ended up having to keep a running bank account like a CPA. It was nuts. I even got saving account books from the bank.

    I quit it.

    Now if you have ever watched the tv show Parenthood I saw something there that might help you. They have a boy on there who has aspergers and one of the ways they get him to cooperate with getting his work done is they have this huge pull out drawer with about 4 containers of small candies that he really likes. Things like jellybeans, fruit chews, gummy bears, m&m's things like that. He gets one per whatever he does right.
  9. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I used candies too. Boys were allowed to eat candies on Saturdays and I made them earn them during the week. Both had their own candy jar and when they did good, one small candy was put to the jar. it helped that my boys have three year age differences so it was easy to explain them why they got a candy from different type of things. And I often kept theme weeks when I wanted to drill something to them and most of the candies came from the thing we were working on. System worked quite well for few years. it was exhausting to keep up, but it was efficient especially with some simple problem behaviours. It of course didn't do a thing to teach difficult child social skills or any other big abstract things, but it did help a lot with everyday things like saying thank you, saying hi, putting your gloves on without fussing, keeping them on while out, washing hands before eating, brushing teeth etc. That type of things. With easy child it worked really well. All in all it was worth it to us.
  10. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    I think the problem is that reward systems do not work for these kinds of kids. This is the WRONG approach.

    This therapist is the WRONG therapist.

    Instead of rewarding behaviors, the therapist should be teaching skills and showing parents how to teach and help build the skills the child is lacking. Giving the child a "prize" every time the therapist visits is fine - but the session needs to be "skill focused" not "behavior focused".
  11. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Nicely said DF. That is exactly what I was thinking, utlimately.

    And ktllc, you DO belong here because you have a kid with special needs and you have good suggestions for others. In my opinion, the only way someone doesn't belong here is 1) they have NO issues with their kids (they are 100% easy child) and 2) they have absolutely nothing to offer anyone that IS here (no advice, no thoughts, no support, no caring). Therefore, you BELONG HERE!!!
  12. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    Reward system never ever worked for us. They just became something else to fight over and a trigger. Instead read Dr. Greene's book "The explosive child". His techniques for far better for us.
  13. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    With my difficult child the most important things rewards did, was to keep him motivated to learn the skills, to stand some discomfort etc. I think. They didn't teach the skills, but when someone is so often corrected than my son was (and he was certainly smart enough to pick out all the 'positive correction methods' to be corrections still) it tends to demoralised. With candy jar he was at least paid for his work. And while candies in the jar didn't make gloves feel any less uncomfortable for him, they made it worth to try to get used to that feeling for him.
  14. Ktllc

    Ktllc New Member

    DF, it is so nicely worded! It is exactly what I tried to say in my post and to the therapist. I might actually quote you.
    I have used instant rewards to get V to work on his letters (a little candy every time he had a correct answer. If he did not get it correctly I would give him an extra hint such the sound or the ASL sign). But the key was: INSTANT reward. And only when we worked on alphabet. Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) also do rewards or reinforcer: work maybe 3 minutes and then get to relax on the ipad for 1 minute. But once again, it's the effort that is rewarded and only during therapy.
    So ultimately, I am not against reward but we can't forget to teach the skill first and foremost.
    It would be like expecting a child to learn how to read just using a reward system. It would only work with spontaneous readers who would not need the reward system anyway. Know what I mean??
    Sweet Pea's therapist gave me the name of a website: It is a wealth of resources!! The best part: you can just get the apps (if you have a tablet or smartphone) and you get the same educational games at a fraction of the price.
    I think I'm going to start my own social skill building program. I'm not sure what would be best: a few minutes every day or 1 hour a week like a regular session?
    The bottom line, I need to learn how to teach him and dedicate some time just for this purpose.
    It is just so frustrating to turn to professionals for guidance and not get it.
    As far as beloonging here, I know we still have a long road ahead of us. I am enjoying his current progress and his relative well functioning. But I know we will go through storms, that's a given.
  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

  16. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I didn't read all the responses but sure sounds like we have the same experiences. Rewards for us always were fine for a short term (actually, same is true for consequences). It can help get something at the moment done, and that is not to be poo pooed. But in and of itself to be the catalyst for change? Nope. Never has happened. As usual, mommies know best, lol.