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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Unwanted Effects of Certain Parenting Strategies: Effective Parenting Tips for Raising a Child with ASD: E-Learning Series LESSON 5

This is Lesson 5 in the free parenting series known as ‘Effective Parenting Tips for Raising a Child with ASD.’ This series covers effective strategies that are scientifically supported to help parents to help their children improve behaviors and learn new skills.

Previous lessons that have been covered in this series for parents of children with autism include:

In this lesson, we will briefly go over things that could potentially “go wrong” with certain kinds of intervention strategies. These obstacles don’t mean that the strategies themselves are bad but it is just important that you be proactive to make the strategies as effective as possible and to minimize potential side effects that you would prefer not to see in your child’s behavior.

First, let’s go over three common strategies and then we’ll go over what possible unwanted effects could happen when using these strategies.



In behavioral science, reinforcement refers to adding something or taking something away after a behavior and then that action leads to seeing the behavior happen more often.

Reinforcement can be considered positive or negative.

  • An example of positive reinforcement is giving your child a tablet and allowing them to play games on that tablet after they clean their room. Then, your child is more likely to clean his room in the future.
  • An example of negative reinforcement is taking away your child’s tablet because his room is messy and he is not cleaning it. If taking away your child’s tablet gets them to clean their room more, then this is negative reinforcement.


Punishment, from a behavioral science perspective, is when a behavior happens less often because of what happens after the behavior.

Punishment can also be positive or negative.

  • An example of positive punishment is when you talk to your child sternly about his behavior and then he does that certain behavior less often.
  • An example of negative punishment is when you take away something, such as attention and/or fun activities as is seen when giving your child a ‘time-out.’ If the time out reduces a behavior, then negative punishment is present.


Extinction is when some behavior that was previously reinforced is no longer provided with that reinforcement.

An example of extinction is when a child “has a temper tantrum” and the parent typically gives the child attention or tries to console the child and gives him what he asks for in an attempt to make him feel better. To use extinction in this situation, the parent would no longer provide attention for the temper tantrum and wouldn’t give the child any tangible item that he previously got during or shortly after the tantrum.


Although the above mentioned parenting strategies can be highly effective and are highly recommended for certain behaviors, there could be some potential effects that occur that may be less than desirable.

Here are some tips for addressing the potential unwanted effects of the 3 parenting strategies discussed above.


  • Keep an eye out for a behavior decreasing in one area if you see it increasing in another area in which it is being reinforced.
  • If a certain reinforcer (preferred item or activity that increases a behavior) is very strong or very liked by the child, you could see some negative behaviors arise when you try to withhold that reinforcer. Be consistent with your behavior management strategy and follow through with your plan to only reinforce appropriate behaviors. Also, be sure to plan for any potential safety issues.
  • Try to focus on or at least move toward naturally occurring reinforcement so your child doesn’t become too reliant on the reinforcement method that you have created, particularly if it requires a lot of effort on the part of another person.

For more information on potential unwanted effects of reinforcement, read the article: Unwanted Effects of Reinforcement: The Bad Effects of a Good Intervention


According to Ward and DiNovi (2020),

“Among the many potential side effects of using punishment are: higher rates of client aggression, the possibility that the punishment procedure itself could act as a model for inappropriate behavior for the client, and the possibility of punishment effects creating a contingency of negative reinforcement for the person delivering the punishment.

To address these potential unwanted effects of punishment, here are a few tips:

  • Make a safety plan for possible aggression or other safety issues that may arise
  • Monitor whether your child is picking up on any undesired behavior that could be influenced by any potential punishment procedures that are being used
  • Monitor your own behavior to make sure that you aren’t actually being reinforced too much by using punishment procedures since the use of positive reinforcement is typically more often recommended as a behavior change strategy


According to ‘Let’s Learn ABA,’

“Possible unwanted side effects of extinction [include]:

  1. Increased behavior (extinction burst)
  2. Spontaneous recovery – the behavior comes back for a brief time for no apparent reason
  3. Some desirable behaviors are sometimes accidentally “ignored” and may cease”

To address these potential unwanted effects of using extinction, consider the following tips:

  • Be prepared to have your child’s behavior get worse before it gets better.
  • Be ready for when your child’s behavior randomly comes back as this is common. Just follow through with your intervention strategy and the behavior should improve again.
  • Make sure you know what behaviors are targeted for extinction and what behaviors you don’t actually want to get rid of.

The tips identified above help you to not only teach your child new behaviors and manage problematic behaviors but the tips also help you to be proactive and plan for anything that could get in the way of your child successfully making progress and improving their behaviors.


For other effective parenting strategies, check out the other lessons in the

‘Effective Parenting Tips for Raising a Child with ASD: Free E-Learning Series’

Lesson 1: Improving Your Child’s Behaviors through Data Collection

Lesson 2: Strategies to Help Track and Improve Your Child’s Learning

Lesson 3: Effective Parenting is Based on Effective Scientific Concepts

Lesson 4: Using Experimental Design in Parenting

Unwanted Effects of Certain Parenting Strategies: Effective Parenting Tips for Raising a Child with ASD: E-Learning Series LESSON 5

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Unwanted Effects of Certain Parenting Strategies: Effective Parenting Tips for Raising a Child with ASD: E-Learning Series LESSON 5. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from