In this series of Behavior Management Tool Box I have previously presented Token Economy and Response Cost. Today I would like to present a very simple and yet powerful strategy for those kids that engage in non-compliance behaviors. As stated by Cooper, Heron and Heward in Applied Behavior Analysis, 2007, “Noncompliance is a prevalent problem in children with special needs and behavior disorders.”
In one of our March 2016 blogs, I wrote about non-compliance behaviors:
“Most disobedience can be avoided all together or at least reduced by taking the following steps:
1. Try breaking down complex tasks into small steps, and ask your child to do one at the time. Cleaning up a messy room, for example, can be overwhelming. Starting with one or two toys or pieces of clothe can be very helpful in achieving compliance.
2. Give your child choices when possible. For example, instead of telling her what to wear, ask her if she prefers the red or blue shirt.
3. Be sure the direction is clear and concise. Start with a positive comment or interaction before giving a direction to perform a non-preferred activity.
4. Be consistent. If you allowed your child to jump on the couch yesterday do not expect her to stop when you ask her today. If you discontinue the direction because your child throws a tantrum you are teaching her that you don’t mean what you say.
5. Give your child time to process the direction. Prime her by telling her how much time is left until TV is over. Tell her it will be time to come to dinner after the video is over. In that way you provide your child with time to prepare for the transition.
6. Some children may need visual schedules along with verbal directions. In addition having a picture schedule provides predictability and thus, reduces anxiety. Visit your child’s classroom or Google “Visual Schedules” for creative and motivating ideas.
7. Motivate by making a preferred item or activity contingent on following directions. “First eat your vegetables and then you can have dessert.”
8. Avoid giving directions when frustrated or stressed. If you are late to school asking your child to put on her shoes is not a good idea. Put them on yourself.
Let’s add to this list another tool: Behavior Momentum
Behavior momentum is strategy in which you first present your child with a series of easy-to-follow requests for which she has a history of compliance. Once she has complied with several (3 or 4) “high probability requests” in arrow, you present her with the target, “low probability” request. In that way you create a momentum of compliance that will likely reduce the probability of disobedience.
Let’s see an example to make this clear:
Mother: “Put on your shoes.”
Child: Avoids the non-preferred task by throwing a tantrum.
Mother: “Give me five.”
Child gives you five.
Mother: “All right, now catch this ball.”
Child: Catches the ball.
Mother: “Give me a hug.”
Child gives you a hug.
Mother: “I love you so much! Now give me your feet. It’s time to put your shoes on.”
Research shows that Behavior Momentum provides a non-aversive procedure (no need for getting upset, yelling, threating, etc.) for improving compliance by reducing behaviors that aimed to escape and or avoid instructions.
For this strategy to be effective you should present the high probability requests in rapid succession, with short or no intervals in between and reward your child’s compliance using very motivating reinforcers before presenting the low probability request.
In sum, another strategy that must be part of your “tool box.”
Daniel Adatto, BCBA