Little Johnny’s parents need to change

Written Lecture
Little Johnny’s parents have brought him into behavior therapy saying he is “out of
control.” Johnny is a four year-old and has been dismissed from three preschools for
‘aggressive behavior’, including hitting and biting other children. At school, he was
removed from the classroom and sent home for the day. He preferred the consequences as
he did not like attending preschool. Johnny “does not listen” at home and “rules the roost”
per his parents report. He will not go to bed on time and yells at his parents if they tell him
to go to bed, ask him to help tidy his room, or ask for help with any household chores. He
likes to watch television, play his handheld videogame, and play with his toys. His parents
are often relieved when he chooses to do these things, so they let him out of their initial
requests. They have resorted to spanking him, which has escalated his outbursts and
aggressive behavior at school. They claim time-out did not work as he just enjoyed playing
in his room during the time-out period. Their goals are for him to be able to attend a school
without being withdrawn for behavioral issues, and for him to comply with simple rules at
home without tantrums and outbursts. He does not meet criteria for ADHD and is not here
for diagnosis, just behavior management.
What would you do for Johnny and his parents? What are the reinforcers at work that
might be maintaining his behavior? What kind of punishment is?

Case Study of Little Johnny

Little Johnny’s parents need to change the way they are dealing with the child’s negative
behavior at school and at home. The school also needs to reduce the attention they give to the
boy when he turns aggressive. Since Little Johnny’s parents are here for behavior management, I
will suggest a procedure that will work quickly. Little Johnny’s parents are using negative
responsers such as spanking the boy. According to Carr et al (1990) an individual may respond
to difficult instructional demands by becoming aggressive. It is clear that the boy has developed
avoidance tactics from tasks he hates. He becomes aggressive when asked to make his bed or
help in tasks at home. In dealing with this problem, I recall that Carr et al (1990) note that it is
not forthright to determine whether to use negative reinforcers or positive reinforcers. Little
Johnny’s parents have used negative reinforcers already and there are no results. It is time to

Case Study of little Johnny 2
apply positive reinforcers by relying on Little Johnny’s liking for Television, videogame, and
The parents will introduce a strategy where Little Johnny does not watch Television, play
videogames or get his toys until he handles or attempts to handle the tasks he is given at home. In
other words, they will use motivational factors as explained by Carr et al (1990) to introduce
desirable behavior in the boy. Sending Johnny from school only served to punish him without
any form of reinforcement. The school could use the extinction strategy, by systematically
reducing the attention given to Little Johnny when he is aggressive. Instead, the teachers would
identify desirable behaviors and recognize Little Johnny in such instances Carr et al (1990).


Carr, E. et al (1990). Positive Approaches to the Treatment of Severe Behavior Problems in
Persons with Developmental Disabilities: A Review and Analysis of Reinforcement And
Stimulus-Based Procedures. (Master’s thesis, State University of New York).

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