Reinforcements and Holiday Presents for Your Kids

There are very few things that parents actually owe their children. These are shelter, education, nutrition, and healthcare. However, in today’s society, a large majority of children and teenagers have the expectations that they are owed the “add-ons” in life. These things can include (but are not limited to) toys, video games, cell phones, screen access, you-tube/Netflix access, etc.

Along with the approaching end of the school semester (prior to winter break), comes a lot of stress, and with stress comes dysfunctional behavior. In young children, this can mean not sleeping well at night, temper tantrums, bad grades, etc. In teenagers, this can translate to bad language, not completing chores, neglecting homework or other home responsibilities.

Sometimes, but not all the time, parents want to solve the experience of stress in their children with more “extras/add-ons.” This not only reinforces/increases the expectation of “add-ons” when they are stressed, but more importantly, does not allow for a child to internally cope and manage their emotions.

At our practice, we like to think of “add-ons” as reinforcements, specifically the use of these being tied to prosocial behaviors (e.g., expressing your needs verbally without throwing a temper tantrum). Feel free to use the reinforcements, but only when your child has demonstrated the ability to internally cope with their emotions.

Some tips for internal coping mechanisms (i.e., things kids can do and say):

Anxiety is a temporary state and cannot last forever

I have handled difficult situations before and I can do it again

How can I go about solving this problem and can I ask for help?

Don’t forget to breathe and be mindful of where I am, and what I am experiencing without making a judgment on it



I am a clinical psychologist with approximately 15 years of experience assessing and treating anxiety and depressive disorders in young children, adolescents, young adults, adults and geriatric populations. I completed a 6-year predoctoral training award at the National Institute of Mental Health, and postdoctoral training at the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital. From my clinical and research experiences, I have come to see the struggles of many families deciding when to pursue professional help and feeling very lost in the process. I will address several mental health issues that will help educate and empower my readers to make better mental health decisions for themselves. Welcome to my blog! Johanna Kaplan, Ph.D. Disclaimer-This blog is not and cannot be used in replace of formal therapy. This blog is used to inform and educate and is not a form of informal or formal advice.

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