As a parent, you want to have high expectations for your child for them to strive to achieve. You want them to reach for the stars!
As your child grows and develops, your expectations and goals for them need to be appropriate for where they are at right now. Make your goals achievable, celebrate the successes, and then set new goals.
Keep raising the bar, but just a little at a time.
In behavior analysis, we call this shaping. Shaping is when you break down a complex behavior and reinforce smaller approximations that are growing toward that big behavior. Too technical? Let me try an example.
Here is a way I am working with my daughter on the complex behavior of speaking in sentences. She’s just barely a toddler so maybe my bar is a little high, but stick with me.
Ready, set, GO! That’s the phrase we use for a lot of things. When she was just learning to make sounds purposefully I just waited for her to grunt, squeal, whatever. I would hold a cup of water in the bathtub, ready to dump it out waterfall style and say “Ready, set,….”. When she would utter anything at all, I would say “GO!” and dump the water out.
Fast forward some amount of time (it’s all a blur, I honestly don’t know how long we stayed at each level). Then I would accept a vowel sound- something that sounded more like the word go than just a grunt. I’d dump the water, blow the bubbles, push her on the swing, roll the ball, you name it after “Ready, Set,….” oooo, aaahh, uuhhh, ohhhh. My response was always: “GO!” and then perform the activity.
Now we she says the word “go” very clearly. She’ll try to get away with guh or goo but I wait for GO the correct word.
The next step will be, “Ready…” and she’ll have to say “set, go!” We can also expand to other phrases. Some ideas include:
I started small with her learning to fill in the blank when I pause. I always repeated back to her the end goal word. Then as she got more proficient, I expected closer approximations to the goal word. Now she can say the word and I’m raising the bar to more words. Then phrases, and someday even sentences! I’m just crazy like that!
Interested in learning more about ABA and parenting? Check out Parenting with Science: Behavior Analysis Saves Mom’s Sanity!
Don’t take my word for out. These guys say it’s true:
Brophy, J. E. (1983). Research on the self-fulfilling prophecy and teacher expectations. Journal of educational psychology, 75(5), 631.
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis.
Lane, K. L., Wehby, J. H., & Cooley, C. (2006). Teacher expectations of students' classroom behavior across the grade span: Which social skills are necessary for success?. Exceptional Children, 72(2), 153-167.
Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. Simon and Schuster.
Wolf, M., Risley, T., & Mees, H. (1963). Application of operant conditioning procedures to the behaviour problems of an autistic child. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 1(2), 305-312.
Leanne Page, MEd, BCBA