“It takes a village to raise a child” is an adage that persists into today’s ever-expanding reaches of social media. Online support groups are created for so many different areas of child raising and can be an incredible area of emotional support for parents struggling with challenges with their children. Support does not just come with empathy and sympathy for similar difficulties, but often suggestions on how to resolve your issues, based on those individuals’ experiences. This can lead to a seemingly endless path of attempts to support your child in a variety of ways before hitting the wall of “We’ve tried everything and nothing works.”
What is often NOT taken into consideration with advice is WHY your child continues to do what they do, and how to support them to use a different means to the same end. As behavior analysts, we at Behave Your Best take the time to identify the WHY of what your child does – so we can get to the root of the unwanted behaviors from the start and teach alternative, appropriate behaviors to replace them!
This is where data comes into play! Your parent report of when unwanted behaviors arise and what happens afterward is an important piece of identifying the root of the issue. Once we’ve identified the reason(s) your child is engaging in unwanted behaviors (which could be anywhere from one to multiple), we then create a plan to address the root of the problem. This is where MORE data comes into play!
Not only do we refer to research studies that have systematically implemented the techniques that are used to address the same root of an issue, but we monitor how well your child is progressing when you use the techniques, how well you are using the techniques, and we use baby steps to gradually support you to improve your child’s behavior.
These baby steps are so important to keep an eye on, because of a behavioral phenomenon called an “extinction burst”, when a behavior no longer accesses the end result it used to! An extinction burst is the “things may get worse before they get better” aspect of teaching new behaviors and responding differently to unwanted behaviors. If your child is used to getting a snack when they whine, “I’m huuuungry” and instead, you pause briefly and start guiding them to ask, “Can I have a snack please?”, you may experience an unwanted initial response! This is a behavioral response that we monitor using the data (how you tell us things are going and what we may also see in a progress log) and we know from research that it is thankfully temporary! Depending on their unique history or experience with the unwanted behavior serving them, some children require more baby steps to make progress while some require fewer. We use the data of how your child is progressing at a certain step to guide us to break down new skills as needed and meet your child where he/she is at to support his/her continued success! By regularly looking at your child’s previous and current behavior, We are able to make data-based decisions to guide us to resolve. Your child’s data drives our decision-making about your child’s recommendations!
Online support groups DO often offer amazing advice in the form of emotional support and encouragement to help you push through these tougher times. They can help you Pretend You Are a Light Switch® as you work to turn your switch back on when life turns it off! With a data-driven plan in hand and emotional support to keep you going, you are set-up for success to not only support your child(ren), but also to support your role as a parent. And hopefully, one day, you can feel comfortable enough to post how data supported you!
Anna Milligan, MS
Jamie Waldvogel, MS, BCBA
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute a behavioral consultation relationship between Behave Your Best, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as behavioral consultation and should not be construed as behavioral consultation.