Extinction can be used to decrease and eventually eliminate undesirable behaviors. Some behaviors are responsive to extinction while others are not. In order to decide if extinction might work, you must determine if your attention is part of what your child wants. Crying, whining, tugging, interrupting, throwing tantrums, yelling, throwing, hitting, and holding his breath are behaviors that usually are motivated at least in part by a child’s desire for his parents’ attention.
Other behaviors, however, are rewarding enough to the child that they do not need your attention. Jumping on furniture, sneaking food treats, and annoying a sibling are behaviors that are usually pleasant all by themselves and will actually increase with extinction.
Behaviors that you choose to use extinction for must be safe for your child and others. As long as he cannot truly hurt himself with his behavior, you can use extinction. Be sure that you are in a situation where you can use extinction and will not have to give in to your child’s behavior because he is bothering others or embarrassing you.