Help for Families


Step 5: How to Cope: Reinforce the Right Behavior

Step 5 (or Powertool 5) in the Beyond Blame System has to do with how you act, not what you say. Now that you've set your limits and communicated them to your family member, the next step (step 5) is learning how to maintain them. The key is to remember that the real message is not what you say, but what you do.

 Here are some typical comments from Welcome to Oz members:

  • “When I set my boundaries, I had all kinds of newfound resolve. But when he tried to dismantle them, I went soft. Just when I thought I’d reached the end of my rope, the rope got longer.”
  • “When I set limits, he always has some sneaky way of getting around them—even if the purpose of the limits was to help him.”
  • “After I set a boundary, he would improve his behavior for a while—even long periods. But then all hell would break loose. Boundaries set, boundaries broken. The cycle just keeps going.”

Your family member will test your limits many times to see how seriously you are taking them. This is human nature: We learn as young children that even if Dad wants to spend the day in a hammock, we can get him to take us to Mount Splashmore if we ask a enough times in a high, whining tone and refuse to give up.


Some Examples

Understand Reinforcement

Reinforcers are behaviors that, occurring in conjunction with some kind of action, either increase the probability that a person will act that way again or decrease the same.

Positive and Negative Reinforcers

Behaviors that increase the likelihood of a repeat performance are called positive reinforcers. Those that decrease the chances are termed negative reinforcers.

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Actions speak louder than words

When your family member starts testing your limits, all the communication steps you’ve learned take a big back step to your actions. What counts now is what you do, not what you say. To make the limit work, reinforce the behavior you want—observance of your limits. Do not inadvertently reinforce breaches of your limits. Most non-BPs do just that, which compromises the limits they’ve tried so hard to set.

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Try The "Least Reinforcing Scenario"

Animal trainers use the least reinforcing scenario (LRS) when an animal has done something wrong-for example, if a trainer is teaching a dolphin to wave a pectoral fin and the dolphin squirts water, the trainer stands still and remains expressionless because any response might provoke a behavior. The same kind of things works with humans, too.

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