When working in schools as a special education teacher, I heard a lot about ‘pairing’ when you first start working with a child. This meant to pair myself with reinforcement so the student would find me reinforcing (and not hate my guts as their new teacher).
Hopefully as a mom, you yourself are already reinforcing to your child and you don’t have to try to make your presence in their life reinforcing to them. I mean- we do meet their every need. All day long. Every day. 24/7. EVERY need.
Anyway- the idea of ‘pairing’ can be useful to us Moms of Littles when we think about everyday activities that must happen but are not always super reinforcing to our children. We are trying to transfer the reinforcing properties of the fun thing to whatever is less desirable to your kiddos.
What things do your kids avoid, protest, make a living nightmare for you? Getting dressed, eating vegetables, taking turns, etc? If we try to pair these things with something reinforcing, then we can decrease problem behaviors that happen during everyday routines.
Example 1: Your kid hates putting on their shoes, but loves singing songs. Reserve the favorite songs for when you are putting on their shoes. I know you are dying to sing (insert most annoying kid song title here), but don’t do it except when it’s time to put on shoes.
Your response: that will never work!
Me: Oh just try it. Research shows that combining a less preferred activity with a highly preferred activity can decrease problem behaviors. It can increase the likelihood of your child engaging in the less preferred activity without protest.
Me: What have you got to lose?
Example 2: You want your child to engage in conversation with you, but they don’t really like talking. Well, talk about their preferred items/ activities while DOING their preferred items/ activities. Watch ‘Frozen’ together. Again. But actually watch it this time and talk about what is going on in the movie. Maybe even hit the pause button and chat for a minute. That quiet kid may be ready to open up all about Princess Elsa (Or whomever. I have an infant. I have successfully avoided watching this movie. So far.)
Example 3: Your kid hates eating vegetables but loves being outside. Why not have dinner on the patio? Oh yeah, snow. Well, when the weather is warmer, eat those veggies outside!
Example 4: Shall I go on?
A real example from my life: my little E was having a hard time taking a bottle a) at bedtime and b) from someone other than me. We paired the bedtime bottle with a few minutes of watching ‘The Wiggles’. Now she lets her dad feed her before bed regularly and I don’t worry about her going to bed with an empty stomach and waking me up in the middle of the night or super early because she is hungry. It’s a win-win. Plus, my husband now does a mean rendition of the song ‘Fruit Salad’. What’s not to be happy about?
Pair a less desirable activity with something you know your kid likes. Stick with it until the less desirable activity is no longer an issue in your home.
Big picture- fade out the highly preferred activity over time. You don’t have to keep pairing these things forever. When it feels like you are having success regularly, then start fading out. Don’t just drop it all at once. Slow and steady wins the race.
RESEARCH is cool!
Hanley, G., Iwata, B., Roscoe, E., Thompson, R., & Lindberg, J. (2003). Response Restriction Analysis: II. Alteration of activity preferences.JABA, 36(1), 59-76.
Cooper, J., Heron, T., & Heward, W. (2007). Basic Concepts. In Applied Behavior Analysis(2nd ed., pp. 40-41). Columbus: Pearson.
Interested in learning some more behavior strategies for moms? Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity is available now!
Since becoming a new mom, I’ve felt like my brain has turned to mush. I’m pretty sure part of it has. Scientists- where is the research on mommy mush brain? I’m POSITIVE it’s a thing.
In another lifetime, I spent my days managing a center that provided ABA therapy for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. I ate, slept, and breathed Applied Behavior Analysis. I provided direct services to kiddos, worked with parents, trained ABA therapists, and consulted with schools. I worked hard, got peed on regularly doing toilet training and had one killer black eye 3 weeks before my wedding. I wore my badges of ABA therapy with pride.
As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), I probably should still be totally immersed in my field. I am more immersed in dirty diapers, sleep schedules, making homemade baby food (what possessed me to start this trend in our home), and singing ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’.
Well, it’s time my two worlds combined- I present to you my thoughts on bringing ABA to the world of Stay at Home Moms and all Moms of Littles.
ABA has been proven through peer- reviewed research to be an effective intervention for ALL kinds of populations, not just for children with disabilities. ABA WORKS. It just works. For everyone. That is the message I want to bring to Moms of Littles.
As Moms, we see all kinds of things from sleep training to how to introduce solid foods to potty training. These methods and theories are pretty much never backed by science or research yet everyone gets all up in arms about them.
I only want to present scientifically proven methods to increase positive behaviors by modifying environmental events. In plain English: we can’t change our kids’ behaviors, but we can change the things around them to encourage positive behavior change.
Stay tuned for more frequent (put me on a reinforcement schedule, please) blog posts geared toward using ABA in your everyday life.
I’m particularly talking to you, beloved SAHMs and Moms of Littles. You are my people now. Let’s stick together in our sweatpants and headbands. Let’s join forces and use research-based strategies to improve our everyday lives and share in those successes together! We can do this!
I loved this article about people with disabilities working as successful models. Have you seen the Target ads with the little kids with Down Syndrome? Or Gap? Or Nordstrom? I LOVE seeing disability awareness and equality in the ads in the Sunday paper. ALL people should be represented and we are getting closer to that complete picture!
Read more about it here!
Leanne Page, MEd, BCBA