“The Messy Room Dilemma: When to ignore behavior, when to change it,”
by Alan E. Kazdin & Carlo Rotella, Slate.com (March 2009)

Thanks to more than 50 years of research, we know how to change children’s behavior. In brief, you identify the unwanted behavior, define its positive opposite (the desirable behavior you want to replace it with), and then make sure that your child engages in a lot of reinforced practice of the new behavior until it replaces the unwanted one. Reinforced practice means that you pay as much attention as possible to the positive opposite so that your child falls into a pattern: Do the right behavior, get a reward (praise or a token); do the behavior, get a reward. Real life is never as mechanically predictable as that formula makes it sound…

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