One of Progressive Behavioral Science’s goals is to make ABA therapy as accessible and understandable as possible for parents. After all, ABA is an exploding field with so much research and data that it is enough, even in this age of information, to make heads spin. We at Progressive Behavioral Science have boiled a lot of ABA down to one simple word, PROMISE. Next time as a parent you are faced with a challenging situation, whether you are a special needs parent or not, remember this word and walk through its letters to remember these seven critically important principles.
P – praise immediately. In order to clearly relate in your child’s mind the connection between their act and the reward (REINFORCEMENT) they are receiving, don’t wait. As soon as your little one does something, tell them how great it is. Even waiting a few seconds or minutes to provide praise or a reward weakens its ability to change behavior. Of course, this works for punishment, as well. If you punish your toddler for how they acted at a friend’s house once you get home, it’s probably too late.
R – reinforce good behavior, not bad. If your child really wants your attention and misbehaves, you are actually rewarding them by giving them the (NEGATIVE) attention THEY WANT. Craft your responses so that you are not rewarding your child by giving them something the misbehavior is seeking. If children don’t want to eat and misbehave at the table, don’t – for example- send them away from the table as a punishment.
O – offer help when they try to communicate. Young children are just learning the basics of communication. You NEED TO positively reinforce THEIR BEHAVIOR to use words and communicate by assisting them when they struggle. Conversely, if you don’t positively reinforce their efforts with attention and support, you are actually encouraging them not to use words.
M- make sure you warn about transitions. Transitions are all important. Kids often struggle with the ability to move from one thing to another, changing focus- especially when what they move to is less desirable. You can help them prepare by giving them warnings at intervals depending on how difficult the transition will be. “We are going to stop playing in the playground in 5 minutes… in 2 minutes…. in 1 minute….” For example. This also assists because you can address any of your child’s protests well in advance of when you actually are moving on to something else.
I- if you ask for it, follow through. Self-explanatory, but one of the hardest rules to follow. Showing your children that you don’t always mean what you say will weaken your credibility going forward in nearly everything you will say. Don’t let your children convince you, don’t lose patience, don’t give up. If you say you are leaving in 5 minutes, leave in 5 minutes- otherwise, next time, saying that you are leaving in 5 minutes is an invitation to debate. You don’t want that.
S- say they are good when they are. Never pass up an opportunity to positively reinforce. You cannot love or praise enough! Period.
E- expect the best that they can do. Flowers grow to reach the sun. If your child sense your faith and confidence, they will grow to live up to it. Children are remarkable forces of potential, and in many ways our primary job as parents is to realize that potential. If you expect to be amazed by your child, you will be.
This is a brief overview. In the next few weeks, we at Progressive Behavioral Science will explore these areas in greater depth. Happy parenting!