Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I was reading Applied Behavior Analysis, 2nd edition, Cooper, Heron & Heward, and some concepts in the chapter about “Self-Management” caught my attention. Here are some passages I would like to share with you.
“The ultimate goal of behavior management is to develop independent, self-directed people capable of behaving appropriately without the supervision of others.”
“Self-management is an ultimate goal of education.”
In 1974 Skinner wrote about self-control: “When a man free to do whatever he wants controls himself and chooses the right course of action, he is behaving”.
“Self-management is simply behavior that a person emits to influence another behavior. It is the personal application of behavior change tactics to produce a desired change in behavior.”
“Self-management can help a person be more effective in his daily life, replace bad habits with good ones and achieve personal goals.”
“People with self-management skills are more likely to fulfill their potential and make greater contributions to society.” 

As we teach our kids effective life skills, they become more responsible, develop independence, and learn how to solve problems.  Have this in mind when you are working on managing behaviors. Rather than reacting out of frustration yelling, punishing, focusing your energy on “the bad” you want to teach children what to do instead, reward good behaviors, build behavior repertoires your children will be able to use in the future in order to be be successful.
The way you manage the hassles of life sets the best example for kids. Children will do as you DO, not as you SAY. For example, of you throw a tantrum when something doesn’t go your way, do not be surprised if your little ones react in the same way. You can teach them that lying is not OK but then if you lie (“tell them I’m not home,”) or don’t fulfill a promise (“I know I told you we are going to Disneyland today, but I’m so tired. Let’s leave it for another weekend”) that is what they learn.

Providing children with choices and the opportunity to make decisions, when appropriate, is another good idea when teaching self-control. Tell them the difference between right and wrong and then let them decide. Again, model the decision making process by sharing with them why you made this or that decision. You can also read books to them or tell them stories of real life people who make the right choice.    
Self-management should be your ultimate goal.

 “The goal of parents is not to control their children but to teach their children to control themselves while building their self-esteem.”

                                                                                         - Janet Hackleman

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

Monday, August 11, 2014

Yes, We Can!

Recently I have been thinking about the influence this positive phrase can have and the power of “Yes” as it applies to all aspects of our lives. This is particularly relevant when it comes to parenting. 

As discussed in a previous blog (see “Parenting Five Common Mistakes” at ), “we say no 100 times a day and I can almost guarantee that 75% of those NO’s could be YES’s.”

“Don’t jump on the couch”, “No, you can’t have ice cream”, “No more TV, it is time to go to bed”, “No more cookies.” And the list goes on and on.

Who likes to be told “No”? Being told “No” frustrates your child and can instigate bad behaviors, such as crying, screaming, hitting, throwing things, etc., which can be very problematic, especially when in public. Have you ever seen a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store or at church? Children don’t need to read blogs to know how to make our lives difficult. If we rephrase our response to a more positive alternative and redirect the child instead of just saying “No”, we can reduce the child’s frustration and prevent “behavior disasters.”

Instead of saying just NO, what he CAN’T do, tell the child what he CAN do. Some examples can be:

“Can I have a cookie mom?” Instead of immediately saying no, you can say “Yes, you can have a cookie when you finish your dinner”.

“I want to play outside.” Try “It’s too cold right now but we CAN play blocks or dance inside”. It is very effective to offer two “Yes” for every “No.”       

“It seems you want to jump, let’s go to the trampoline.”

By the way, when you say “NO” to your child, you are teaching him/her to say “NO” to you when you place a request on him/her. So, save the NO’s for when it is necessary. If you child is running to the street or playing with a knife, that’s a NO.

Making positive behavioral changes is crucial to behavior management. Try the “Yes We Can” approach and see what a difference it will make in your child’s behavior. 

 Learn how to behave so your child will too.


Daniel Adatto, BCBA





Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My daughter is right

My daughter likes to ask me about my job and sometimes she “helps” me find solutions for my clients’ behavior problems when I present her with hypothetical situations. One of our “case analyses” was about a student who is placed in a regular classroom in middle school because the only autism class is not suitable for his academic level. The problem is that the pace and curriculum of regular education is way over his head, causing this student a great deal of frustration. This in turn leads to frequent outbursts: crying, screaming, throwing objects, dropping to the ground and refusing to move. All this is very disruptive to the classes he attends and leads to countless meetings to try to fix what is broken. And I’m not talking about the student, but about the system.     

My daughter said he needs something in between the low autism and the challenging typical education class. I think she is right. The problem is no such thing exists in the public school system, at least not in the student’s area.

In previous blogs I talked about NBC television show “Parenthood” because one of the families in the show has a child on the autism spectrum. They faced the same problem, no classes that can fit their bright but behaviorally and socially challenged son.  In one of the last season episodes, fed up with being called to school endless times because of behavior problems, the parents decided to create their own school despite all the hardship it involves.

The point is that we don’t have to accept a reality that precludes these children from accessing a learning environment that will allow them to be successful, which in turn condemns them to a state of recurrent punishment (angry school staff, frustrated parents, exclusion from the social life of school, etc.). As stated by Don Baer (1970), “Not to rescue a person from an unhappy organization of his behaviors is to punish him.” Let’s commit to rescuing these kids. We can create a different reality.
I think we all can agree that being “special” is not the fault of these children. They need help the same way a blind or a deaf child needs. With the right assistance, most of these kids can have a happy and successful school experience, which for sure will be crucial in developing productive members of society. The benefits of this are enormous and probably a good topic for future blogs.

So, what can be done? At this point I have to admit I don’t have all the answers.

I don’t accept the argument that there is no money. I’ll submit that the resources spent (wasted?) in managing the problems that the current situation involves could be redirected to create appropriate classrooms and curriculums for these precious children. I’m talking about money spent on all kinds of ineffective therapies, all the time spent in useless meetings, all the frustration, etc. There are also non-profit organizations that receive money from foundations dedicated to this population which could be an additional resource.

In my opinion it is a question of will and commitment to a solution. Let’s stop the laziness and let’s put our minds together to find solutions rather than managing a broken system.
My daughter is 11. What would it take for us, grownups, to arrive at the same conclusion she did?

Daniel Adatto, MA, BCBA