To help a young person achieve their goals, systems of positive reinforcement for prosocial attitudes, behaviours and activities can be developed.
Positive reinforcement will only be effective if it is meaningful for the young person, and it will be more powerful when it comes from people they value and respect.
Positive reinforcement can come in many forms. For example:
The ACRA program rewards the young person for turning up by having drinks and snacks for them. Some programs may have the capacity to reward engagement in positive activities by financially supporting the young person through payment of registration fees at sports clubs, or assistance to purchase needed equipment.
Through praise and positive feedback, especially where it recognises the young person’s changes and efforts.
Where a young person has met their goals or commitments, they may be rewarded with increased responsibility, trust from significant people, or freedom to attend further events or activities.
Young people and their family may experience reinforcement from a reduction in conflict and improved relationships.
Intrinsically rewarding reinforcement (ie. it is meaningful at a psychological or emotional level), may be more powerful than extrinsic rewards eg. food / drink for attending.
Ensuring that the system of reinforcement is clearly understood by the young person offers them some sense of control over their lives, in that they are clear on how to create positive outcomes for themselves.
Where support people are involved in the young person’s plan, it may be useful to brief them on how to provide positive reinforcement. For example encouraging words and acknowledgement is most effective when specific. Rather than just general, “good on you!” a support person might make the effort to say, “That was so great how you took some deep breathes when you were feeling frustrated”.