Many parents resort to desperate measures when trying to placate their screaming child, especially in public arenas. How many times have parents said, “If you behave yourself, I’ll buy you a toy!"
A recent Slate article addresses why many parents have guilty consciences about rewarding their children for simple tasks; the reward and bribe line is blurry.
But Kazdin and Rotella, authors and proponents of the reward system, argue that rewards are a form of positive reinforcement and can come in forms other than material goods. Verbal praise and attention is effective, and if good behavior comes with a reward and explanation, then it is hard to view merely as a cheap bribe.
They provide a good guide to making praise effective. Of course, all of this looks promising and sounds easy, but executing these tactics in the midst of a tantrum proves to be the true testing point.