Within CBT, it is believed that behavior is maintained by its consequences. If there is a consequence that accelerates or encourages a particular behavior, this is called a reinforcer within CBT. Conversely, if there is a consequence that decelerates or discourages our behavior, this is called a punisher. For example, if a child gets a reward of candy from his mom every time he throws a tantrum in the grocery store, the candy become a reinforcer of future tantrums. An example related to couple conflict and parenting would be if you find yourself listening more to your partner (and actively listening) and talking less while discussing a topic that is typically conflictual, you may find that your partner reacts to you differently and the entire conversation goes better than before.
Reinforcers of behavior do not always produce positive behavior, as they may encourage negative and unhealthy behaviors that maintain your problems with couple conflict and parenting. For example, if every time you yell at your partner in front of your children, your partner responds by giving into your demands this reaction would serve to reinforce a behavior that is clearly unhealthy and creates a negative tone for the whole family.
Now that you have an understanding of behavioral reinforcers, consider how you can use these to help promote your progress in addressing your problems with couple conflict and parenting. Specifically, think about what positive reinforcement might help you change your own negative behaviors and create more positive ones. There will be natural consequences that will serve as positive reinforcement. For example, if you focus on bringing more positive energy and behavior into your household, you may find your partner or your children reacting to you in more positive ways than before, or attending more to your needs. Use the worksheet provided to examine ways to reinforce your desired outcomes moving forward. Make a copy of the worksheet for each situation of potential conflict that you want to review.
Download and print the worksheet here: Reinforcement Exercise
Next, in the final session, we evaluate the goals that you have set for yourself at the start of the program and wrap up the course.