Here’s something you probably didn’t think: parents can learn good disciplining skills from watching what happens in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is fun and exciting. The sound of tokens pouring into some lucky person’s hands and shrieks of delight get everyone’s adrenalin pumping. We all want to be that lucky person. We identify with them and go to put our money in the slot machine too. If we get a payout fairly soon, we are more likely to put more money in. How many people do you know who are able to leave straight after a payout?

Once someone has become addicted to gambling, it is really difficult to break the addiction. This is because the winnings do not come too regularly or too frequently. You’re never quite sure if the next token will result in a payout. This schedule of reward is called “variable ratio reinforcement” in the jargon of behavioural scientists and psychologists. Research has shown that behaviour that has become entrenched by variable ratio reinforcement is extremely difficult to extinguish.

So what can this teach parents?

The first important lesson is that we must be very careful not to give in to bad behaviour from our children. If we say “no” and then our child starts throwing a tantrum and then we give in, we are actually rewarding (reinforcing) that bad behaviour. So he has hit the jackpot. The reward pours into his little lap and he’s ready to use that same, effective behaviour on you again! What is even scarier is when we realize that we are not going to give in every single time, we only slip up sometimes. This means that our child is on a “variable ratio reinforcement schedule” for this bad behaviour. It will be very difficult to get him to stop using this behaviour, because it will take a very long time before he can truly accept that it will not result in a payout.

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When we parents realise that rewarding behaviour makes it happen more often and that if it becomes entrenched on a variable ratio schedule it is difficult to make that behaviour go away, we can look at ways of avoiding this big parent trap. We can begin by using the reward system as Las Vegas does and reward behaviour we want from our child. So when you call your child to come to dinner and he comes, you smile, hug him and praise him for being so prompt. If he ignores you, don’t reward that behaviour, go and collect him. Don’t give him much attention when you collect him. Attention is rewarding, even negative attention.

Because you understand the power of variable ration reinforcement, you will be wary of giving in to bad behaviour. I often had to point out to my temper-throwing toddlers that เว็บตรง I will not reward bad behaviour and therefore, even though I might have agreed to their request on reflection, I could not now because of their bad behaviour. You will be amazed at how quickly young children learn that concept if you just keep reminding them.

Taking your young child to a shopping mall is almost like taking an adult to Las Vegas. There are lights and music and exciting toys and temptations on offer everywhere! He is going to ask you to buy just about everything he sees. Use Las Vegas’ reward system to your advantage. Decide before you go what you will be willing to buy and what you will not. Tell your child that if he behaves well, he will get a treat from you. In Las Vegas you see by watching that the behaviour that gets the treat is putting money in the slot. It is better to tell your child directly than to hope he sees and copies some other child. When your child asks for something that is on your “not buying” list, tell him so. If he accepts, praise him (this is an important reward for our children) and remind him that this is just the right kind of behaviour to get his reward at the end of the shopping trip. If he throws a tantrum, remind him that it is only good behaviour that will get the treat and that this is certainly not good behaviour. Remain firm. Remember if you give in, every future shopping trip will be a night-mare. At the end of the shopping trip, if on balance he has been better behaved, he gets his treat. Make sure that when you give it to him he is behaving well and has not recently thrown a tantrum or nagged you.

It was by remembering the power of reward and how Las Vegas has become so successful in drawing people from around the world, that I developed the resolve to reward only good behaviour and strongly avoid rewarding bad behaviour in my children. I didn’t always find it easy but my behaviour was rewarded by my children behaving better in the mall and each time their good behaviour rewarded me, my resolve strengthened.

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