Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part 5: "Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions"

This is part of a summary of the book: Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions. My comments are generally in italics; the rest of the information comes from the book.

We are now at Part 3 of the book: "Responding to Your Child's Behaviors".

Chapter 6: Behavioral Principles and Intense Behaviors
"When your child's emotions dominate your life, you might feel like it's impossible to meet the basic responsibilities of parenting.How do you teach your child the lessons that all children need to learn about how to behave, what is expected of him, and the values and morals of your community?...When your child has intense emotions, they get in the way of his learning certain behaviors, maintaining expected behaviors, and/or responding to your limits. Even when your child knows how he is supposed to behave, his emotions may interfere with his ability to behave in expected ways."

Principles of Effective Parenting Revisited
  • Do not assume the worst.
  • Don't be judgmental.
  • Validate your child.
  • Be responsive, not reactive.
  • You can lose the battle and still win the war.
  • It takes two to engage in power struggles.
  • Balance your responses.
  • Choose the most effective response.
Understanding and Using Behavioral Principles
  • The behavioral model of psychology tells us that "behaviors are caused and/or maintained by something that either precedes or follows them."
  • Conditioned response: when a behavior is prompted by something that comes before it
  • "Other behaviors are learned by the consequences that come after them---behaviors are strengthened when followed by something pleasurable and weakened when followed by something unpleasant or punishing."
  • Describe behaviors by the specific actions you see instead of using judgmental terms.
    • "My son got upset and was disrespectful" vs. "When my child was not allowed to do what he wanted, he told me that I was mean and then did not talk to me."
  • Behavioral Terms
    • Antecedent: something that comes before the behavior
    • Consequence: something that comes after the behavior
    • Reinforcement/Reward/Reinforcer: increase the probability of occurrence of the behavior it follows
      • "For reinforcers to be effective, (1) choose them with your child, (2) be willing to choose another if one isn't working (even if your child chose it), (3) use it at a time when your child has not had access to it, and (4) provide several choices so that your child doesn't get bored."
      • "Reinforcers are not bribes....In actuality, life is filled with reinforcers." Going to work/getting paid, doing something nice for someone/appreciation is expressed.
      • Give your child reinforcers as soon as possible after the desired behavior has occurred, so the child links the desired behavior to the reinforcer.
      • Examples of reinforcers: special time with a parent, a later bedtime, an event your child wants to attend, extra time on the computer, money to save for a special toy, sticker or stars on a chart (that may or may not be turned into something concrete)
      • Shaping is teaching your child to behave a certain way by rewarding small, gradual steps that lead to the desired behavior.
    "The steps of effective shaping are: 1. Break the overall behavioral goal into small, manageable behaviors that your child can accomplish. 2. Reinforce completion of the first behavior until he is able to follow through consistently on that behavior. 3. When the first behavior becomes consistent, add another expectation and reinforce when both behaviors occur. 4. Add another behavior to all previous behaviors and only reinforce when that new behavior joins all the others. 5. Repeat until all expectations can be met by your child and reinforcement occurs only when your child has met the overall goal."
When I think of "shaping", I think of potty training. First, my child gets one candy (something little: M&Ms or Smarties) if he sits on the potty. Then, he gets a candy if he gets something in the potty. Then, he gets two candies if he gets something in the potty and his diaper was clean....and on and on until he is potty trained.
      • "The Premack principle reminds you to make a behavior that is likely to occur contingent upon a behavior that is less likely to happen." (television AFTER chores, dessert AFTER dinner, etc.)
      • Intermittent reinforcement happens when you only reinforce behavior occasionally. This creates very persistent behavior because the child never knows when he will get the reward. This can increase negative behaviors, as well as positive behaviors, depending on how you are using this principle (for example, giving in to tantrums).
    • Punishment: decreases the probability of occurrence of the behavior it follows.
      • "To be most effective, punishment needs to be specific and time limited. Punishments that go on for days or weeks lose their effectiveness." Unless you remind your child of the behavior that caused the punishment every time he complains about it. Ahem.
      • "Try to make the punishment fit the 'crime'."
      • Natural Consequences: when you allow the natural outcome of the behavior to punish it. (forgetting to bring his lunch/being hungry, forgetting homework/receiving a bad grade)
      • "Reinforcement is more effective than punishment."
      • "To reduce your child's explosive and destructive behaviors, reinforcing him when he is behaving is more effective than punishing him when it is not."
      • "You can also shape your child's behaviors by reinforcing specific behaviors that show a modulated response on the part of your child or a closer approximation of the behavior you're looking for."
      • Instead of taking something away from your child, let him use it only when he is behaving appropriately. "Reminding your child when he can earn something is much more pleasant (and effective) than threatening to take something away. For example, tell your child that he can play his video game only on the days when he has not had an outburst. In this way, he is earning the video game for behaving rather than losing it when he is not."
    • Contracts: "...are agreements between you and your child developed to (1) decrease a behavior that is problematic (like throwing things) or (2) increase adaptive behaviors that do not occur often enough (such as going to bed on time). A contract explicitly states the conditions under which your child will receive a reinforcer and what that reinforcer will be."
    • To develop a contract with your child:
      • Be specific about the expected behavior (do you want your child to complete his homework or work on it for a certain amount of time?)
      • Be able to confirm that the behavior has occurred
      • Have the reinforcer in your control and be able to follow through
      • Only use consequences you can and will follow through on
      • To develop a long-term contract, have your child collect a certain number of immediate reinforcers (stickers, tokens) that can be traded for a different prize.
      • If you have more than one child and/or more than one contract, get a notebook to keep track of the contracts you've made so you can remember the details that apply to each one *sigh of experience and exhaustion from the necessity of having so many contracts*.
Choosing Target Behaviors

"How do you choose the behavior that you want to change or modify? Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does my child have unsafe or dangerous behaviors? If your child is dangerous to himself or others, these behaviors must be addressed and are the first targets for change.
  • What non-dangerous behavior has the most detrimental consequences for my child?...
  • What behavior is most problematic and/or interferes most in the family?...
  • What are my child's goals and what behaviors get in the way?..."
The chapter ends with a Behavioral Practice Exercise to help us practice what we've learned/make a plan to address a certain behavior.
  • "What behavior do you want to change?
    • Describe the behavior specifically. How often does it occur?
  • What consequences usually follow the behavior?
  • Do you want to increase or decrease the behavior?
    • What technique will you use? Reinforcement? Punishment? Shaping? A combination of them?
  • What specific reinforcer or punishment did you choose?
    • Why did you choose that particular consequence?
    • Are you able to be consistent in applying this contingency?
  • What was the immediate and long-term impact of your consequence?
    • What was your child's reaction to the consequence? Did the behavior increase or decrease over time?"

Summary Part 1
Summary Part 2
Summary Part 3
Summary Part 4


Carolyn said...

Finally a chapter with something I can get my hands on! Antecedents! Consequences! Shaping (though that example was a way I'd never heard it used. Usually we talked about shaping with language approximations - if all your kid can say is, "wawa" for "water", great, accept that. Once they can say, "wata", though, you only accept that. Etc.) From your review, they seemed to have less to say on these topics than I would have expected, though. This it the stuff where SCIENCE comes into play (studies! graphs! peer review!) so I would have thought they'd pump it up more. They seem to like to talk a lot about FEELINGS and how does your child FEEL (the answer is "intense", which was established when the owner of the book purchased it! Enough said!) and while I agree it's good to understand how your child feels, it sure seems like they could have more SUBSTANCE to back up their point of view!

Doing My Best said...

Carolyn--Remember, I'm trying to summarize the book without just typing up every chapter, so the original book is better/more thorough than my summary =). There IS more detail and examples in the book. (I hope nobody gets a negative opinion of the book because of my iffy summarizing skills!)
I do remember hearing about shaping in terms of language in my communications classes, but I learned a lot about shaping behavior in my Special Ed classes.