Monday, March 9, 2015

Unsuccessful Behavior Management: Common Causes

We often see behavior management programs fail. Even when implemented by professionals. So let’s take a look at possible causes:
- Not looking at the “big picture”:
Many interventions focus on extinguishing the viewed behavior without thoroughly evaluating their cause. Identifying the cause is critically important to be able to find a solution. Even though causes are not immediately observable, they relate significantly to the immediate behavior.
- Failure to determine the true cause of the problem:
In children with developmental disabilities, there are usually three interwoven factors into a large percentage of behavior difficulties: the inability to understand effectively, expressive communication problems, and sensory issues. To be successful, an assessment of behavior problems has to consider what need the behavior is trying to meet. 
- Trying to deal with too many things at once:
When children have lots of problems in lots of areas, it can be overwhelming. When the parents try to correct too many things simultaneously, both adults and kids become frustrated.
- Focusing on extinguishing behaviors rather than teaching skills:
Telling the children what not to do is sometimes helpful, but it is even more important to teach them what they should do instead. One of the most effective ways of reducing/eliminating inappropriate behavior is to teach the child a more effective and appropriate way to get his needs met.
- Presuming the child understands:
A child’s difficulty in understanding is frequently a significant source of behavior problems. Presuming the child understands directions and rules can be misleading.
- Failing to teach functional communication skills:
For most behavior difficulties, communication emerges as part of the problem and is an essential part of the solution. If the behavior problem is related to the child’s communication needs, then teaching more effective communication skills needs to be a major part of the solution.
- Bombarding the child with too much verbal & sensory input:
When children are having difficulty, it is tempting for the adults to do more, get closer, or any other reaction that only intensifies the situation. Taking a break and backing off is often times the way to go.
- Making the whole process too complicated:
 Too many directions, lecturing, bringing the past, complaining, usually makes things too complicated, thus worsening the problem. Be simple and matter-of-fact. Stating the problem (“your room is messy,” “is time to go to sleep,” etc.) is much more effective than lecturing (“I told you one million times”, “you have to be responsible and clean your room”, “I’m not your servant”, “every day the same thing”, etc.). Offering choices rather than giving directions is often times a good idea (i.e. “Do you want to do your homework before or after dinner?” rather than “Do your homework.”)    
- Reacting to difficult behaviors inconsistently:
Children get confused easily. The more inconsistent the adults are in managing behavior situations, the longer it will take to observe positive changes in the child’s behavior.

- Not getting the right amount of help:
Dealing with behavior problems can be an overwhelming and exhausting task. Evaluating yourself as part of the situation is difficult. Different people will evaluate situations from different points of view. Teaming together with others will help the whole situation is perspective.

- Not defining success:
Taking into consideration their disability, are we trying to make kids perfect or are we trying to make them behave appropriately? Success is not perfection. Think of success as appropriate participation and interaction with others.

- Forgetting that kids are kids:
Just by their nature, children are going to have their ups and downs. Everything a child does is not a major problem. Take time to sort out the things that children do just because they are kids from the behaviors that are the real problem.

 - Forgetting to have fun:  
Dealing with behavior problems is serious business. It is easy to focus exclusively on behavior problems instead of the good times. Don’t forget to enjoy your child when things are going well.

Remember, learn how to behave so your kids will too.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA