Where behavioral science and humanism get out of the ivory tower, and into the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Part 1: Making Little Darlings Out Of Little Monsters

We all know nightmare kids: The ones screaming in the supermarket, the niece who comes over and trashes the house, maybe your own kid who's whine makes you cringe...

So who did the dark rites to bring them up from Hades?

We Did.

Can we send them back and get a "good kid"?

Absolutely, and with out punishment, corporal or otherwise.


Here's the "Behavioral Reinforcement" break down of bratty kids:

So where do "bad" kids come from? Trick question, there are no bad kids, they're neutral. Kids act however people in their environment have taught them to act.

We taught them that screaming, whining, hitting and breaking things works. Anytime anyone has given in to those behaviors, this is what they've learned:

1.) Being "bad" works to get what I want.

2.) This is the level of being "bad" that I need to be.

3.) I should be this "bad" again or worse next time I want something.

All people, kids and adults, act like monsters/jerks because it works to fulfill their needs in the most expedient way possible. Essentially, they've been taught that acting like a butt gets results.

So, how do you use Science to change this without punishment and how do I know it works?

A large percentage of my work with in the mr/dd/id field was about changing destructive (read that as self mutilation, assault of others, damaging property...) and inappropriate behaviors (stealing, stripping, screaming...) in people where all punishment was essentially forbidden. Even speaking in harsh tones could be grounds to be brought up on abuse against protected citizens.

So believe me, if I can get a 300 lb. man with intellectual disabilities to go from stripping and trashing his roommate's stuff for attention, to asking his support staff to play a game and spend time with him, you can get you kid to stop whining at you when they want a new toy.

Version 1.) Trying to get something they should have, the wrong way.

Step 1: To really change behavior you need to identify the purpose of the behavior.

-So Johnny is being disruptive while you're talking to your friend because he wants your attention?

Step 2: Provide an explanation and alternative that meets the same need.

-"Johnny, It's rude to interrupt people who are speaking. I'm not talking till you until you are calm and say excuse me."

Step 3: Stop responding to unwanted behavior.

Then ignore his behavior until it stops. Don't look at him, tell him no, that he's bad, just pretend you and your friend are out having coffee and Johnny is at home.

Step 4: Support what you want.

The INSTANT Johnny is calm and says excuse me Praise him for being calm and polite and speak to him for a moment.

Step 5: Rinse and repeat as necessary!

If done correctly and consistently, the negative behavior could be gone in as little as a week or two.

Version 2.) Trying to get something they shouldn't have.

Step 1: Stop responding to unwanted behavior.

Johnny is now yelling throughout the supermarket for candy. Let him know calmly it's not time for candy. When the screaming, throwing things out of the cart and other mayhem starts. Just calmly put the Cherrios back in the cart, and ignore his behavior until it stops.

Pretend you're the priest from "The Exorcist," whatever happens don't give in! That second you let it get to you and you caved in. That was the second where Johnny was taught his tantrums work. That's where he learned to do it to get what he wants. (Be prepared to remove him from the store, or to go all the way through the checkout isle with him yelling.)

Sure the first few time you'll get some death stares, but you'll only have to go through it a few times, rather than a life time of bratty behavior.

The Downside and hard part:

The behavior will go UP at first. Oh, it'll go sky high, higher than you could ever imagine and then...... it'll totally stop. It'll just drop off. So if you can make it through those final highs without giving in, you're golden. So you gotta totally commit before you start, remember, if you waiver even once, you've taught them the new baseline.

That new baseline be worse then ever and take even longer to get rid of. Why you may ask? Because you've essentially become a slot machine for the kid. They never know when acting up will pay off, so they'll do it all the time.

Think you can do it? It might be the hardest thing you've ever done. But then, think how much freedom you'll get, no more whining, tantrums, and you can take your kid out in public and not be ashamed and glared at by everyone else around. Totalllllly worth it.

Coming soon!

Part 2: How to use Positive Supports, Shaping, and Modeling to teach new and better behaviors!

1 comment:

  1. But Mike, what if what they really want is to be left alone while they are loud and disruptive?