I want to start off by saying that I will not write about accidentally changing places with one of the children in this house. But rather, I am writing to say there is nothing more freakish to a behavior analyst that when members of her own family engage in challenging behavior. And since it’s Friday, well, I’ll just call this post Freaky Friday.
Behavior analysts, by nature, change behavior. We tweak variables in the environment and then we watch to see how behavior changes as a result of those tweaks. Another interesting thing about behavior analysts is that we take pride in knowing that our procedures work. We proudly show off our graphs as an indicator of success. There is nothing more geeky than the Annual Convention where thousands of behavior analysts gather to show their data. What we do works.
Well, what we do works most of the time. Sometimes behavior gets worse before it gets better. Sometimes behavior gets better slowly. No matter how good a behavior analyst professes to be, all behavior cannot be controlled. “What!” you scream in surprise, “All behavior cannot be controlled?!?!” Sadly, it is true. I must confess that behavior is influenced by a number of variables that are, at times, out of the behavior analysts’ control. Let’s take the weather as an example. We can teach children to engage in a behavior day after day for many days. However, the weather can come along and change the behavior in an instant. Each day we teach Johnny to tie his shoes. Day after day he gets his sneakers, puts them on, and ties them. What an accomplishment! Then BAM! It’s raining and now Johnny needs to wear different shoes. While we taught Johnny to put his shoes on successfully, we only taught him to do it with one pair of shoes. We should have taught him to put on all types of shoes so that when it is raining, he can put on his rain boots.
The same thing holds true for behaviorists and
their our families. While we teach our family members to engage in the right behaviors as often as possible, other things come along and impact the behavior. Lack of sleep, illnesses, medications, and peer reactions also impact behavior. Take all of those things and add them to a family situation simultaneously and you get a chaotic Freaky Friday (or whatever day of the week it happens to be). You see, behavior happens. And more often than not, it happens when we want it least.
- When you are shopping in Costco and your child is crying because she doesn’t want to wear a long sleeve shirt under her coat this winter
- When you are trying to park to get to a medical appointment (for which you are already) and there are 10 cars in line to park and the sibling with autism starts screaming because he does not like to sit still in a car
- When you are at a restaurant and your child is crying because she does not want to eat her vegetables and everyone in the restaurant is looking
- When you are trying to catch the bus and there is a meltdown about how to wear the hair that day
- When ________________________________________ (you fill in the blank yourself)
Because behavior happens when you least expect it, here are a few tips to avoid your own Freaky Friday:
- Stay calm. No matter how bad the behavior or situation seems, stay calm. If you lose your cool, it could cause the behavior to escalate.
- Use a calm voice. Easier said than done but your voice can set the tone for subsequent behaviors. Be cool.
- Walk away. Sometimes, it is easier to just walk away from the behavior. You do not have to have the last word. You are the adult, aren’t you?
- Take a deep breath. Repeat (as often as necessary).
- Laugh when it is over and when your child is out of earshot. Repeat.
Enjoy your weekend! Whatever freaky behavior it may bring.