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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question comes from Dawn who asks:

“I have 3 situations that I need help on. My daughter is 2 and some change.

  1. She insists on turning the lights off and on repeatedly
  2. She throws her toys
  3. She tried to run out in the street

What do you recommend?”

Lights and Toys

Because I see so many children with autism, I always have my “A-dar” on. By that, I mean that I screen every child that I see by running down the red flag checklist in my head. Once I realized that Dawn’s little angel did not have any of the red flags, I recognized that the light switch game had actually become just that–a game. Dawn’s little angel learned that when she flipped the lights off and on, that Mommy instantly gave her attention.

Please know that Dawn provides her little angel with loads of attention. However, for a toddler, being able to control Mommy’s behavior is extremely powerful (and quite fun). The same holds true for toy throwing. When little angel throws toys, she is instantly reminded that only balls can be thrown. Again, instant attention from mommy. Look at my “Toddler Power”! I will also recommend that you check out our cartoon from last week. See PJ? He is up to the same old tricks. He wants his Mommy’s attention!

So, for those two behaviors, do your best to refrain from attending to the behaviors.

A) If you can tolerate the disco effect in your living when the lights are going off and on repeatedly, simply sit on the sofa and continue watching TV or reading or cooking (or whatever you may have been doing). If you have migraines and the disco lights send you over the edge, simply walk over to the light switch (without looking at your child) and cover the light switch with your hand. Do not say anything and do not look. If possible, continue the activity you were doing when the disco started (e.g., keep reading your book). As soon as your child begins an appropriate activity, count to 10 and then join her in the activity. You can tell her how happy you are to see her reading, playing, or whatever she is doing that is appropriate.

B) For the toy throwing, create a box and label it timeout. Sit your daughter down and show her the box. Explain to her that if she chooses to throw her toys, each thrown toy will be placed in timeout for the rest of the day. Every time she throws the toy, simply walk over to the toy, pick it up, and place it in timeout. Do not look at your daughter, do not say anything to her, and then return to your previous activity as if nothing happened. Repeat as often as necessary.When she is playing with toys appropriately, take a couple of minutes to sit down and play with her and tell her how you like the way she is taking care of her toys.

If your child asks to have one of the toys from timeout, simply remind her that it is in timeout for the day because she threw it. Tell her she can have it back tomorrow.

Running in to the Street

While this behavior may also be attention-seeking, a two-year-old lacks the understanding of the dangers associated with street crossing and various forms of vehicles. So, separate from an incident, be sure to begin teaching your child about street-crossing rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways). There are some great children’s books that can help you with this. Road Safety, Policeman’s Safety Hints, and Be Careful and Stay Safe.

If your daughter runs in to the street, get her as fast as you can without over-reacting. Bring her back to a safe place and remind her of the rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways).

When your daughter follows one of the rules, tell her how happy you are to see her use her rules or how smart she is for remembering her street safety.

Thanks for contacting us Dawn. Please let us know how it goes with these behaviors!

If you have questions about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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Take a look at our picture below. (Thanks go out to Bil Keane for this wonderful cartoon (c) 1976.) See if you can guess why PJ is tantrumming. When there is a reason for a behavior, behavior analysts called it a function or a purpose. This is the first time we have tried a poll so please participate! We will post the answer tomorrow! Thanks for playing.

Let's BEE Friends

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We love sharing funny cartoons about behavior with our readers. This one is hysterical!

Teachers, how many of you have felt like this? Parents, have you ever wish your children came with a manual?

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We recently discovered a fellow blogger, Benjamin Theisen. He is a BCBA and he writes often about how ABA may be applied to every day life. We are sharing this post because of its relation to TV watching which we wrote about recently as well. We hope that you will enjoy reading Benjamin’s blog as much as we do. You will find it here if you want to read more. You may also follow him on twitter @BYOCmagazine

From USA Today: Experts tell parents secondhand TV harms child development

Like what you see? subscribe to the RSS feed for email updates from Burst Your Own Cocoon.

It’s in your liv­ing room.
It under­mines parent-child inter­ac­tions.
It hin­ders lan­guage devel­op­ment.
It reduces your child’s abil­ity to play and learn.
It reduces time your child will spend TRYING to play and learn.
At least 33% of fam­i­lies do it everyday…

You are the par­ent. You are in charge.

Take a stand! Turn OFF the TV!

This advice comes from the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Pedi­atrics, who recently pub­lished their first warn­ing ever about the dan­gers of sec­ond­hand TV.

“Par­ents are dis­tracted by TV the same way preschool­ers are,” says author Lisa Guernsey.

Look at your liv­ing room. Watch for the warn­ing behav­iors:
Do you leave the TV run­ning while inter­act­ing with your child?
If your child is play­ing with a toy nearby, are you check­ing the TV while cook­ing?
Are you watch­ing him play with an inter­ac­tive book while your TV plays on low-volume or mute?
Is your child col­or­ing while you rewind the DVR and read par­ent­ing blogs online?
Turn off the TV! Par­ent­ing means you multi-task enough already.

Turn OFF the TV when you inter­act with your devel­op­ing child. Read the USA Today arti­cle to know why.
Exter­nal Link — USA Today: Experts warn of harm to kids from sec­ond­hand TV viewing

For more about how you can teach your chil­dren, click this inter­nal link to BYOC Magazine’s “2 Myths about par­ents as teachers”.

For a detailed pic­ture of what to do with your child when the TV is off, click this inter­nal link to BYOC Magazine’s “Par­ents are teach­ers — Lit­tle girl vs. The shape sorter”.

What is your opin­ion on TV and par­ent­ing? Does it affect your children?

Tags: child, kids, sec­ond­hand, TV, dan­ger, devel­op­ment, par­ent­ing, advice, teaching

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Addressing challenging behaviors is one of the most talked about topics among educators and parents alike. Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, we are often asked for advice about how to deal with hitting, biting, self-injury (e.g., self-hitting, self-biting), and tantrums. While we would love to give a quick-fix, one-size approach answer to everyone, we have learned over the years that behavior simply does not work that way.

“What?!?!” you ask. “There are no quick-fixes for behavior problems?!?!”. Sadly, we must tell you that there are no quick-fixes. Short of locking your child in the closet (which we would never advise you to do), there is no fast way to make bad behaviors disappear.

What we can tell you is that with persistent and predictable parenting, the behavior will subside. However, you need to know a few things before you decide to nip the behavior in the bud. First, all behavior is a form of communication. If your child is misbehaving, she is trying to tell you something.

Second, all behavior has a purpose. Children act out because, quite frankly, it works. What does your son get when he has a tantrum in Target? What does your daughter avoid when she takes all morning to get ready for school? How much of your attention is all the negative behavior demanding?

Finally, positive behaviors will replace negative behaviors if the positive behaviors are reinforced. If your child is trying to get candy at the check out lane at Target, go ahead and give him candy at the check out lane. However, promise him the candy if he can get through target without any tantrums. Do not give the candy if your child has a tantrum.

If your daughter moves at a snail’s pace each morning, perhaps she is trying to purposefully miss the bus. Instead, offer to take her to school but only if she is ready by a certain time.You may have to consider getting her up earlier or even helping her get dressed in order to make the bus. And, if your child must go to school in her pajamas, I can assure you she won’t be the first child to come to school in pj’s.

If your child is misbehaving in order to demand all of your attention, beef up the attention you provide but make sure you are attending to the positive behaviors. We call it “catch them being good”. When children see that good behavior gets attention, they will enjoy engaging in good behavior over bad behavior any day.

While we cannot solve your child’s problem in a blog post, we would like to direct you to some additional resources to help you in your time of need. First check out this great site called Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children.This site is full of resources, many of them free. Here you will find access to power point lectures and handouts, access to a newsletter, and information related to managing challenging behavior.

If you need assistance with older children, check out this great site called the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports. This site has information for families, teachers, and community members. Information is available regarding research, training, and program evaluation. Find out who is available to help in your state!

I came across a nice parent- and teacher-friendly post regarding challenging behavior. The authors, Elizabeth Erwin and Leslie Soodak, provide some helpful information regarding why behaviors occur and how to address them.

Finally, you can always submit your question to receive help during our Ask Missy Monday blogs. Simply email: askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot-com.

The bottom line is that the sooner you address the behavior problem, the better.

Happy Parenting and Happy Teaching!

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