I yelled at my kids…and IT WORKED!

by Evil Erin via Flickr

by Evil Erin via Flickr

We were in a hurry… OK, I was in a hurry because I slept late and was not feeling it this morning. I dragged out of bed and didn’t feel like dealing with the kids yet, so I took a shower – a long one. When I peeked at the clock from underneath my towel as I dried my hair, I noticed I had fallen even further behind. Half-dressed, I stormed into to kid #1’s room, flipped on the light and said, “get up, get up–WE are late and you need to hurry!” As she rubbed her eyes not knowing what happened, I threw open the door to kid #2’s room, turned on the light and shouted orders like a scene from some Navy Seals training documentary. Fifteen minutes later of getting my stuff together and 45 seconds of microwaving something that even Aunt Jemima would not recognize as a waffle, I checked on the kids again. Continue reading

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“So, here I am…A desperate single mom begging for help”

homework.

I recently responded to a friend’s request about a struggle she is having with her daughter. I think she was brave to say what others have not, so here is her email to me and my response to her within her email. It is long, but so are nights struggling with your child because he or she will not do homework! Please comment with your thoughts…

So, here I am… A desperate (embarrassed, possibly mortified) single mom begging for help…

My daughter has decided she won’t do class work in class. (she is in the second grade). The teacher puts them in groups to do the classwork, but she refuses to do it, or chats up the others, or coaxes them into not doing the work.  So, the teacher has had to put her at her own desk– I guess shaming her into compliance?– but my daughter acts like this is a reward.  And, still doesn’t do the work. When asked why she isn’t doing the work, she told the teacher “it is pointless”.  She now has a folder filled with “unfinished work” and the teacher is going to start giving her zeros…  If she does the work, it is rushed and done just to get to do something else– so she gets Cs on work for which she is capable of getting As.

My response: Does she appear to be motivated to avoid the zero? It seems she is not that motivated by the achievement of the A. Sometimes this can backfire if the zero is not aversive.  Continue reading

The error of punishment often not talked about…

DSCN2067
Sometimes the most harm done with punishment is the fact we often punish the wrong behavior.

As we all settled into our seats at the dining room table, we looked out the windows to see the nasty and dark Florida evening storm clouds that had popped up from nowhere. When we were all looking outside, we noticed a car driving by and then a dog leaping out the window.

Did you see that? Did they just throw that dog out?

Continue reading

The expectation of reward for good behavior

Varuca
A comment I frequently get when talking about rewarding behavior is, “won’t he just learn to expect some kind of reward for everything?” Another version of this is, “well, if I do that, then she won’t she always ask for something in return?”

My answer? NO, and it does not really matter at this point anyway. This is especially true if you are working on changing a problem behavior.

A personal story
One of the things we have worked on in our house is “accepting it,” which basically means, “don’t freak out if something does not go your way.”

So, to do that, we started praising and specifically rewarding when our kids “accept it.” Also, occasionally, we reward calm “acceptance” with what they wanted in the first place. For example, if we told our son to turn the computer off and he did so without doing the bouncy, whiny thing (or some version of protest), we would say, “dude…thank you for accepting it and closing the computer. You can have more time on the computer now that you accepted that.”

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when he accepted something that was a pretty big deal. I cannot remember exactly what it was, but I was happy how he accepted it. He turned to me and said,

“so, since I accepted it, can I keep playing it?”

There was also another time soon after that when he said,

“since I did good, can I have a treat?”

Am I worried about that becoming a pattern? Good gracious, no.

Do I think he will start manipulating the situation so he only does something if there is something “in it for him?” Nope. Does not cross my mind.

Do I sometimes give him the treat or let him keep playing? Sometimes. (We actually have a rule that you don’t get a reward if you ask for it…but that’s another story).

First things first…I am pretty happy when I have focused on teaching a certain behavior and it begins to occur more and more, even if I have to heap praise, high fives and some extra time with the computer on top of it. The more the behavior occurs, the less I will have to reward it. The behavior is occurring, at least, and I can fade out the rewards as time goes on.

Second, if your child says he will only do it if he gets a treat, that’s ok. Do not get into a back and forth with him about it. I would suggest waiting until he wants to do something or asks for something and then you say, “well, you need to ______, then you can have/do that.” Do not get cranked up about it…it really does not mean a whole lot at this point other than the fact he has caught on to the fact that he does something for you and it can benefit him in some way (not a bad lesson to learn anyway).

So, if you are somehow worried that your child will only behave because there is a piece of candy or extra time playing games at the end of the good behavior, worry not! They are kids. You can worry about “intrinsic motivation” or “doing it because they should” later.

Setting things up for better behavior…or worse?

Photo by Ray Bouknight via Flickr

Photo by Ray Bouknight via Flickr

“This child just cannot sit still”

It was my first year of graduate school and my first behavior analysis professor asked the class what seemed to be a fairly easy question regarding a student’s behavior. She said,

Johnny cannot sit still in his seat. He is always fidgeting, and moving around. What would you do?

Take a moment and think about what you might have said…

As I remember, the common responses were something like this:

“Reinforce him for sitting calmly in his seat”

“Give him stickers for sitting, and do it a lot at first”

“Praise him when he sits still…tell him how good he is doing”

“When he is wiggling in his seat, tell him how to sit nicely”

There might have even been a response of “just ignore it…”

The professor had a lesson to teach and it is a lesson I would like to share today.

She showed a picture of a seat filled with thumbtacks. Continue reading

Are rules meant to be broken?

Photo by JunCTionS via Flickr

Photo by JunCTionS via Flickr

I’m sitting in a plane trying to stretch my legs and figure out if there is any way these seats could be more uncomfortable and the flight attendant comes over the speaker, “Due to the turbulence, the captain has turned on the seatbelt sign. Please return to your seats and remain seated until the seatbelt sign is no longer illuminated.”

No kidding, within two minutes, three different people got up from their seats and bounced their way back to the bathroom. It was almost as if they waited for the opportunity when everyone else was going to be seated to go to the bathroom.

Didn’t you just hear the lady??? Its freakin’ dangerous to be walking around in the plane like this, and if you knock over my drink on me…Even if you aren’t moved by the fact that this plane is bouncing around like crazy and you might hurt yourself or, God forbid, someone else, it’s the darn rule!

Of course, being the lame rule-follower I tend to be in these situations, I look up to see the flight attendant immersed in Fifty Shades of something, not paying a bit of attention to the rule-breakers. Really? If it is not that big of a deal, why turn on the light anyway? Let us roam around and use the bathroom if you are not convinced enough there is actual danger that you will be willing to follow through.

Alright, so where is the behavior/parenting part of this? Continue reading

Are you begging your child to cooperate?

Photo by Tobyotter via Flickr

Photo by Tobyotter via Flickr

We all want our kids to behave well. We want them to do what they should and when they should do it. We want them to earn the spoils of behaving properly. We create some of these “spoils” ourselves in the form of sticker charts, trips to the ice cream shop or dollar bills.

But, are there situations when we try too hard to get our kids to earn what we have arranged? I think so. Continue reading