This is the second part of an article about applying the 4:1 Rule to teenager's behavior. Please read the previous article first... Written by a psychologist.
The critical ratio is 4:1. It's a subtle point, but one that took me a long time figure out. In this specific way, we are choosing which positive things to include in the "four" part. That's the shaping and changing of behaviors part. You are focusing on specific behaviors four times as often as anything else. Your child is getting lots of attention when s/he does certain things or at the very least is getting that attention because s/he did those things. You're just bringing it up. This changes behavior simply because you are bringing it up. Your teenager will start doing those things much more often. Why? Because it feels good. S/he gets lots of attention for doing those things. Why? Because your behavior changed. You are using the 4:1 technique.
And, here's the magic. When your teen behaves more positively (showing the behaviors on the left side of the list) s/he isn't showing the behaviors on the right list because they are incompatible, meaning the opposite of the good ones. The bad behaviors start to disappear! They are becoming extinct. The bad behaviors are replaced by the good (reinforced) behaviors, without punishment. Your teen "spontaneously" behaves better, showing the behaviors on the left side of the list.
You might wonder why it's 4:1, not 3:1 or some other ratio. Well, I've tried 3:1. That's when you make three positive statements to every "other" one. It works, but not as well. There's some positive rewards, attention, etc. It's just not enough because human beings need more. In my opinion we need more regular nurturing, especially by others in our clan. It's our genetic heritage and four positives to every one "other" seems to be the default ratio. I've tried 2:1. It barely works, sometimes not at all. I've tried 1:1. It doesn't work. I've gone overboard in the other direction and tried 5:1 or ever 6:1. That's when you deliver five or six "positives" for any one "other" communication. Both of these ratios produce changes in behavior but it starts to sound "syrupy" or disingenuous. That's a turn off; hence, a punishment in the making. That's bad.
You might wonder about a 1:4 ratio; that is, only one good comment (reward) for four "other" statements (neutral or even punishments). This system is found in the military and is fear based. In this behavioral format, you rarely get a reward because good (conforming) behavior is expected. In the military, it is not thought to be necessary to recognize a positive behavior every time (or four times in relation to "other" behaviors in my system). However, just mess up and the Drill Sergeant is on you like wet on water--in your face and not happy, at least by stereotype. He or she probably confronts you four times as often as he or she compliments you. This system works to get conformity when the consequences of not behaving well are severe (like when you get put in the brig, or worse, are at war) and when fear is followed by very strong, negative (punishing) reinforcers such as injury or even death. This system has its place, but not in raising children who are forming their very core beliefs. It doesn't work with young people who have evolving and as yet fragile self-esteems. It does not work with spouses or partners who are in "normal" relationships. If the 1:4 rule is applied to families, disaster results. This technique damages children. In general, using the 1:4 rule creates mad people who feel bad about themselves and act out a lot. This is one way I get long-term clients.