I have a HUGE sweet tooth and naturally, my 4.5-year- old daughter is following in my footsteps. She found my hidden junk food stash (looks like I need to find a new spot after bed time!) and so I let her have a few jelly beans. A few minutes passed and she asked for a few more. It literally took every ounce of self-control to put the starburst jelly beans down and not veg out on the couch with my mini me and crush the entire bag, lol. Instead, I thought this would be a good lesson in “You don’t always get what you want!”
She immediately said that “I broke her heart” (actual words) while she had tears in her eyes because she didn’t get more jelly beans. I validated her feelings and said that she couldn’t have any at that moment. I didn’t want the pouting behavior to “win” to earn her more jelly beans. If I gave in to the challenging behavior, that would show my daughter that the crying “worked” and she could potentially try that again in the future… Mama don’t want that! That was nonsense!
After she calmed down, I provided a NEW way for her to earn more jelly beans in the future. I told her that she could work for more jelly beans later if she practiced her writing. This seemed to get her excited and she perked right up!
In that moment, I established the contingency, she knew the expectation and understood that she could have access to jelly beans in the future! It was important that the pouting behavior was not going to “win” to get more jelly beans but she had to earn them by doing something else.
A little while later, she got out the markers and paper and was excited to work on her writing! She wrote her name, ‘Mom’ and her sisters name and was happy to earn a few more jelly beans and that was the end of that!
In this scenario, bribery would have been giving her jelly means immediately when I saw how sad she was to stop her crying. However, I did not want to reinforce the challenging behavior! Instead, I created a new contingency and found a new way (an appropriate way!) for her to EARN jelly beans that came AFTER successful completion of a task… Reinforcement!
Silver lining, Mama got a few more sweets that didn’t have to be eaten in the corner like I was smuggling in illegal goods :).