The ABCs of Understanding and Changing Challenging Behaviours
Every observable thing that a person does can be analysed as a behaviour.
There is no guessing required as to the motivation or the why. There is only what happened directly before the behaviour took place (the Antecedent, trigger or cue) the observable behaviour itself (Behaviour) and the event that happened directly after (the Consequence) this is not to be confused with the consequence (punishment) that the individual received.
This consequence is what directly followed the event that you observed.
As a behaviour analyst this was broken down into the three above-mentioned categories to be analysed for recurring patterns.
Parents, therapists, caregivers and teachers were asked to record what had happened when an undesirable behaviour took place and bring in the ABC diary/recording sheet for analysis by the Senior Behavioural Therapist, Case Manager or Clinical Psychologist.
If your child, or a child in your care is repeatedly engaging in undesirable behaviours such as hitting, biting or less dramatic ones. It would be very useful to record these incidents and take it to a session with your Clinical Psychologist, Child Psychologist or Behavioural Specialist.
An example of this I often encountered was:
Antecedent: Child was asked to do something they did not want to do or interrupted their play/current activity "Joey please pack away your toys/turn off the tv/iPad, it's time for dinner/time to leave the playground/pool".
Behaviour: Child ignores the instruction completely or throws a large tantrum (screaming, kicking, crying etc.), runs away with the iPad/toy/at the playground/pool.
Consequence: Is allowed 5 more minutes (whether spoken of or just left alone for longer) by parent/caregiver who wishes to avoid the tantrum/argument that may ensue from the child being asked to do something they don't wish to do at that time
Reason for continuation of the undesired behaviour (the behaviour analyst's job) the child succeeds in getting their way in this situation and not listening to their parent/caregiver, which for them leads to more time playing/watching tv/on the iPad/ longer at the playground or pool.
How to prevent this behaviour from reoccurring:
This way the child learns very quickly that you mean what you say and you will follow through, but it is done fairly, with warning and time for them to adjust to the upcoming change. I and many parents, friends and fellow therapists/nannies etc. have great success with this approach.
Very quickly children will learn and understand that if they do as you ask when you ask, everyone will benefit.
After a while you will not need to go through all of the above steps for ending an activity they are enjoying, a simple, it will be time to go in 10 or 5 minutes will be enough.
If a challenging behaviour or pattern comes up for you again and again with your children or those you take care of, ask yourself.
How is this behaviour benefitting them?
Every behaviour has a reason whether it is immediately clear to you or not. Discovering the why behind the behaviour- and how to change it- is often the job of a Behaviour Analyst.
It is possible to work out why a challenging behaviour keeps happening with a bit of detective work and the eyes and opinion of someone not directly involved in the exchange. Things to look for...
Changing challenging behaviours takes a multi-level approach and commitment to change your own behaviours too.
To learn more about this check out:
How to have happy, healthy kids
How to teach appropriate behaviours
How to give consequences lovingly
Time out: How to do it lovingly and properly
Choose Your Own Adventure- Tracking Behaviour
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Here's to you being Happy, Well, and Fed (delicious, healthy, inspiring, whole foods)