Some time ago, years I believe, I heard the catchy phrase 'where reinforcement goes, behaviour flows' & it had me contemplating how much reinforcement plays out, in the shaping of behaviour. It's certainly not easy as a parent to reflect on the role you have in changing your children's behaviours. It is far more comforting to consider, particular when it's a challenging behaviour, it has nothing to do with our parenting. Bit by bit I was noticing how I responded to wet towels on the bathroom floor, feeding the dogs, taking the bins out, plates out of the lounge area, dishes being done, washing being brought in & this was way before I even began a career in applied behaviour analysis. It was at a time I was completing studies in psychology & came across behaviour modification (if you are a behaviour analyst reading this, go gentle), the basics of understanding behaviour. I started to use prompts, even experimented a little with using a key word, highly probable it would be noticed or heard the first time, right before I gave an instruction. For one child it might have been chocolate, the other X-box, the other horse.The change was immediate. I went on to using prompts in other ways, like putting the kitchen bin outside my son's door without any words & when he took it to the outside bin the next morning (limited to two options to step over it or move it) I provided loads of praise when he returned from outside. A week later, I put in back in the kitchen & guess what...the behaviour of taking it out continued. Now today this of course would not be ethical to change a behaviour of someone who is neither consenting or is in a dual relationship with me, that could be manipulating a behaviour. However, disseminating understanding behaviour & the power of reinforcement is useful when it comes to every aspect of our lives. The challenge as behaviour analysts is going through the day without using that knowledge in everything we say & do, to convince others we do not have super powers or a magic wand, this isn't Criminal Minds, we aren't out there manipulating everyone's behaviour, as tempted as so many might be. ABA is the science of changing socially significant behaviours, with the principles of ABA, underpinned by a solid foundation of ethics. Learning about the power of reinforcement, the process of strengthening or reinforcing something, has the potential to be life changing; whether it's smoking cigarettes or a habit of a few too many wines after work each day. Maybe it's your default every time a similar person does or says something. Understanding your own behaviour provides valuable insight. How you use that insight is completely up to you. Understanding my own behaviours is a bonus, placing notes where I can see them, is a strategy useful to remember things. Praising and rewarding people because they deserve it, is not about altering their behaviour, it's recognising they work hard & earned it. So have no fear, having a ABA therapist in your life is not going to be like having an alien x-raying your inner thoughts & memories. Though you may pick up a few healthy tips, get front row seats to their next workshop or having them on the team might result in effective outcomes.
If you would like a few laughs & from someone who discovered the benefits of operant conditioning from a non-ABA role, you might like to read 'What Shamu taught me about a Happy Marriage' by Amy Sutherland or chat with a behaviour analyst today about changing your behaviour, improving your life.
Where reinforcement does, behaviour flows.