The most important thing about making promises is keeping them! One common behavior intervention strategy is to offer a preferred item following participation in a less preferred task. This is sometimes referred to as a “First/Then Schedule.” Here are a couple of examples:

Write five more words and then you can take a break.”

“After lesson, you can have time with your iPad.”

The First/Then Schedule is designed to increase motivation to complete a task. It can be so successful that teachers and caregivers sometimes decide to push the expectation beyond what was promised. For example, after completing the 5 words as initially requested, the child is asked to do 8 instead. Another common mistake is to not leave enough time for the child to have access to the preferred activity that was promised.

When you do not stick to what you have promised, challenging behaviors can be the result – turning a successful teaching moment into an unsuccessful one. This also makes it less likely that the child will respond positively to this strategy in the future. It is essential to keep promises in order to build a trusting and positive relationship.

Contributed by Johanna Lantz, Ph.D., BCBA, Chief of Psychology at The Center for Discovery®.

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Psychology Tips for Keeping Promises