Get the Contingent Key


Are you already a master at “Catching your child being good” and giving rewards immediately? That’s great! You should be seeing the benefits of getting more of the behaviors that you reinforced.

Aside from Immediacy, another absolute key to making Reinforcement work is Contingency. Contingency is the direct conditional connection between the behavior and the reward. A Contingency may sound like this familiar statement: “Clean your room before you go out to play.”

At its core, Contingency is teaching your child which behaviors lead to good things. This means rewarding the right behaviors and not rewarding the wrong behaviors. Surely, it sounds like common sense that rewards should only be given when it is earned. However, in practice, this tenet can be challenging. Some common mistakes that break the rules of Contingency and Reinforcement include the following:

- Setting unclear expectations

Example: What does “clean room” mean?

- Giving the Reinforcement non-Contingently

Example: Allowing your child to go out to play without checking to make sure that the room was indeed cleaned first.

- Giving the Reinforcement before the expected behavior is done.

Example: Allowing your child to go out to play first before cleaning the room.

- Not giving the Reinforcement after the expected behavior is done.

Example: Not allowing your child to go out to play because cleaning the room took too long, and now it is time for dinner.

Each of these common mistakes could be addressed with the 3-Step Strategy: “Plan Ahead, Say What You Mean, and Do What You Say.”

Our next blog will discuss more about Contingency and how the 3-Step Strategy leads to getting your child to follow directions quicker and better. In the meantime, here are links to to read more about the importance of Contingency: Contingency Behavior and Reinforcement and Behavior Contingency Maps.