We have spent a good deal of our Thursday conversations talking about where behaviors come from, the purpose they serve, how our experiences play a role in our choices, and last week we talked about the relevancy of antecedent events. This week we need to spend a little bit of time talking about the difference between organic and acquired behavioral problems.
The ABC’s of Behavior
Over the past several weeks we have been discussing what a behavior is and where behaviors come from. We have even talked a little about the difficulties of recording and measuring and reporting behavioral incidents. Now let’s start talking about the elements that will help us change behaviors. To begin this discussion we have to start with the focal point of behavior change – the function the behavior serves.
Everybody likes something. Sounds kinda simple, doesn’t it? But the fact that “everybody likes something” means that there is something out there for everybody that they find pleasurable and therefore reinforcing. Think about the things that make you happy. I love a good steak. I also really enjoy spending time with my wife and kids. These are the types of things that make me smile and make me want to work toward being able pay for a good steak and to spend time with my wife and kids. I have learned that these are things in my life that require work on my part to sustain.
In our conversation last week we talked about how reinforcements are often misunderstood in behavior programming. For example, a teacher becoming weary of being interrupted offers her class an extra 10 minutes of recess if they are all quiet for the remainder of the lesson. This might be effective and it is a fine method to gain much needed silence but it is not a change agent. This is a short term delay of a behavior that is not targeted for change and will likely continue once the reinforcement has been gained. In other words, it is a short term bribe and the gain is solely in the short term. The kids will be talking and interrupting again right after recess.
The one consequence that actually creates the biggest issue is the DRI – the Differential Reinforcement of Inappropriate behaviors. The DRI is a fancy way of saying the response to an inappropriate behavior, typically a punishment.
As we continue our discussion about the process of behavior change it is important to stop every now and then and address common misconceptions about how things should be done. Last week we talked about the importance of the Differential Reinforcement of Inappropriate behaviors (DRI). The DRI is a fancy way of describing the consequence for an inappropriate behavior. A DRI may be a time out, an extra assignment, extra chores, or an actual punishment – and this is what we need to talk about today. Is a good DRI a punishment? Here’s where the answer gets tricky: the answer is yes…and… no.
Some kids have good days and bad days. Chad seems to have good days and mad days. He has days when he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and stays there. And today is one of those days. Everything is irritating Chad today. He doesn’t want to be in school. He doesn’t want to have to talk to people in class. He doesn’t want to walk the hallways in between classes. Today is definitely a mad day.
How do you teach social skills to a group of students lacking the basic social skills to sit, listen, participate, and learn?
One of the real issues facing schools today is the readiness of kids to begin. Are little ones ready for Kindergarten? If not, is Pre-K the answer? What should the focus of Pre-K be? Is it academic readiness or is it social preparation?
Over the last several weeks we have spent a lot of time describing and defining behaviors. After all, our words and appearance and behaviors define us. People cannot see our intent nor can they hear what we are thinking. They can only see the things we do, hear the things we say, and observe the way we act.