Parental Consistency and Positive Reinforcement

7/9/21

Consistency with anything may be the greatest challenge for any of us.  Many of us are able to take a break, now and then, from life and let be what will be without serious consequences.  This is not often the case for parents of Special Needs individuals.  The reliance on consistency of approach for the benefit of a “good” day on behalf of their sons and daughters is paramount.  No pressure, right?  Just the thought of it, I know, can trigger one’s walls to shut quickly at the very idea of the energy it involves.  This proposition is a bear!

However,  perseverance in the face of that bear can produce great results.  Results that will potentially relieve the need for attention to negative behaviors as they diminish and/or disappear over time.  The reward for your efforts is within reach.  So how do you achieve your goals?

PLANNING

Planning your approach is the first step to getting a grip on a behavior that is consuming your everyday.   Having a plan is a guide by which you can help yourself stay on course.  In my experience, that clarity makes the necessity for consistency less of a weighted cloud.  

Targeting one behavior at a time is truly important and the most reasonable hope for managing it.  We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves trying to eliminate multiple behaviors simultaneously.  Sometimes we get lucky and getting a handle on one behavior, that may correlate with another, could reduce the prevalence of both.  However, it may not eliminate either.  It is like trying to master the guitar, the piano and plumbing at once.  The first two may correlate somewhat but they are still distinctly different instruments and proficiency for both will take longer than if practiced one at a time; where plumbing is entirely outside the realm of the other two and must be focused on independently in order to master it.  

Once we have selected the behavior, we need to set up a plan.  Now, there are options for how to approach the eradication of a behavior, both positive and negative.  I prefer to go after the positive until, and unless, the behavior might cause serious physical harm to self and/or another.  There are reward systems that range from charts that track positive behaviors as they appear, ie., “Good job! You said, ‘Good morning,’  which then might earn the person a check or a star, etc.   And ones that mark time without the occurrence of negative behaviors tracked over a designated period of time, ie., “Good keeping your hands to yourself,” which would earn the same notice of a check or sticker, etc. 

Time intervals for behavior recognition (stars, checks, praise, etc.) is agreed upon by the adults involved and adjusted as seen fit.  Initially we want to reward frequently, short intervals of time, with the goal of spacing out acknowledgments as the behavior shows improvement. 

There are charts that exist online for download or you can order charts that come, some magnetized, with pieces to mark progress.  To save money you can create your own charts, too.  

3 Stars Earns the Reward

Knowing what motivates your child/adult is the key to success with any behavior plan.  Observing what brings joy to this person is of utmost importance yet, is at times, hard to know.  Some people aren’t motivated by anything.  At least it seems that way. But if we take the time there is usually something.  I had a student motivated by lawn sprinklers.  A video was made of several different sprinklers set up on a lawn and operating.  Each time the student earned it, he would watch the video.  Now that is seemingly an outside of the box idea but many people are driven by just such objects, actions or stimuli.  

Whatever motivation it is that you discover, you want to make it special.  You also don’t want to make it easily accessible to your child because it may lose its value.  Take advantage of this knowledge and be determined to use it specifically as a reward.  There can be no equivocation here or you lose your advantage.  Consistency in all things when it comes to eliminating undesired behaviors is the bottom line here.  Diligence in tracking time and doling out tangible recognition or praise as a reward at those specific times is the key to any success.  

The beginning of any behavior modification plan is where your greatest degree of energy will be exhausted.  But I promise you that if done well, meaning consistently and patiently, you will need to put less and less effort into combating the behavior over time as it will decrease along with the stress it causes you. 

Positive reinforcement over negative, when possible, I believe, will increase the chances of establishing a trusting relationship between you and your intended audience.  Consistency is not only practical, it also reassures the child/adult and helps to calm their world because they will know what to expect.  We all respond to loving boundaries; we feel safer and more comfortable.  Here is an opportunity to create a positive experience by reducing uncertainty in your child or client.  Showing them that you are calm, unruffled and reliable during a meltdown does more than you can imagine for them and for yourself.  Trust me on that!

Peace and Keep Rising!

Published by riseup20

I am a retired teacher with a creative bent and I am excited to bring attention and assistance to parents and caregivers of children with special needs. Mark

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