Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Where technology fails, chocolate conquers.

I have never supported my daughter's quest to get her hands on a chocolate bar as much as I have in the past two weeks.  Despite buying her the fancy-schmancy  day/night clock (which I discussed in the blog "Sunrise with a touch of [Jo "Supernanny"] Frost"), the waking up at 05:45 (although it is an improvement from 05:36) continues and it is really taking its toll.  This morning I woke up to the call “Daddy, I'm waiting for the sun [on her clock] to come up” from down the passage.  Brilliant.  The whole point is not to disturb parent number 1 and parent number 2 who feel like they have been on an all-night bender, before six o'clock.  I just love the way she calls out to inform me that she will be waiting until 06:00 before she comes through to our room to wake us.  05:45 is the new 06:00 in our household.  You won't believe the difference those extra fifteen minutes can make!

The "stay in bed" chart
So the fancy clock serves its purpose to a degree, but where technology fails, chocolate conquers.  Whether it’s a glass-and-a-half of Cadbury's Milk Chocolate or some cheap version from a local supermarket (how do they get their prices so cheap?) does not matter, either form of the brown, smooth stuff will do.  I have created a 5 day chart with blank squares which will allow my daughter to place her chosen sun (not of the Jesus type) to fill one of the squares when she wakes in the morning.  The first morning resulted in a Penguin bar, the next reward came after two nights of staying in her bed, and the third, well let's just say we are still eagerly waiting.

The reward/bribe!
This way of rewarding is based on the behavioural technique known as positive reinforcement.  A reinforcer is a stimulus (the chocolate bar) which, when follows a response (staying in bed until 06:00), results in a change in the probability of the response reoccurring (staying in bed until 06:00 for ever and ever amen).  Reinforcement itself is the process by which a reinforcer increases the probability of a response.  In life, the most basic reinforcers are those related to survival e.g. food and water.  These are primary reinforcers as they have a biological significance.  However, in this case, we are looking at a conditioned reinforcer, something my daughter doesn't need for her survival (although she may argue that chocolate is essential to her existence).  A vital ingredient in the success of this approach, is contiguity i.e. the reinforcer should immediately follow the response.  In theory, when behaviour is followed by a positive reinforcer its frequency should increase.

Now, go out and test this theory to see how well it really works.

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