In the world of behavior, we often discuss the importance of being proactive when addressing behavior. What does this mean? Well, in simple terms it means that we reinforce the behavior we want to see when it is occurring and we work to prevent problematic behavior before it happens.
To be clear, we are not suggesting that you avoid situations that may result in challenging behavior--for the most part we actually suggest the opposite (in particular cases we may not, but a trained behaviorist can assist you in identifying these cases). After all, those moments are often teachable times when we can work to provide your child with support in how to work through difficult situations that he/she may continue to encounter. What we are suggesting is that you go into those situations prepared and set your child up for success! Too often as parents and professionals, we make the mistake of being reactive--addressing undesired behavior once it has occurred. We frequently forget the importance of being proactive!
At this point you may be wondering what you can do to be more proactive in changing your child's behavior! Here are a few quick tips:
- Consider explaining the situation to your child before it happens (you may want to research Carol Gray's trademarked Social Stories).
- Think about easing your child into the situation, if possible. For example, if the grocery store is a challenging environment for your child, think about what you can do to ease him/her into it. For instance, you may want to start out going to the store during non-peak hours when it is less crowded. You may also want to begin by taking your child for very short periods of time, and then gradually increase the length of your shopping trips.
- Make the behavioral expectations clear beforehand (e.g. "at the grocery store, it is important for you to hold my hand and stay next to me").
- Establish some type of reinforcement plan. Think about (and discuss with your child) what will happen when he/she demonstrates the expected behavior (e.g. "If you hold my hand and stay next to me the entire time, you can pick out a special treat when we check out). Also remember to catch your child being good! Provide lots of praise and attention when he/she is doing what you have asked!
- Consider additional supports you can provide your child during the challenging situation (e.g. a toy to hold, a book to look at, a star chart/token board, visual reminders of the expected behavior). Remember to use these wisely and proactively, not reactively (i.e. in response to challenging behavior).
- You may also consider consulting with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) for support in how to best apply these tips! A BCBA can also assist you in implementing a more structured and detailed plan if needed (e.g. a systematic desensitization procedure).
By thinking ahead and being a proactive parent, you are teaching your child the right thing to do and setting him/her up for success! If you would like more support or clarification, please feel free to contact our behavior team!
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