Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The ABC’s of Child Behavior – Why children don’t follow directions

If you have a child, you’ve thought to yourself at some point “I don’t understand why he or she acts like that”. As a parent you often give instructions, directions, or commands that you expect to be done by your child.  However, occasionally for some parents they have difficulties getting their child to listen and comply with directions.  So why doesn’t your child follow directions? The answer to your question is as simple as ABC. The ABC's refer to Antecedents, Behaviors, and Consequences.  

Antecedents refer to what happens before the behavior. In the case of your child’s behavior, antecedents are the things that occur in the environment before your child responds. Antecedents may include the location, the individual(s) present, or activities.  

*Tips: Before giving an instruction to your child, make sure that you have their attention. Remove distractions from the room and try to avoid shouting directions or commands from another room. Just think what would happen if your boss called you at your desk or shouted for you to do something. You probably would do it faster if it was told face to face. The same applies to your child. 

Behaviors refer to actions performed following antecedents or preceding a consequence. For example, your child puts his toys away. 
Consequences refer to responses that occur after a behavioral response (e.g., what happens after a behavior). Some consequences include repeating directions, reprimands, giving a reward, or taking away a privilege.
 *Tips: To improve the chances of changing behavior, consequences are really important. If your child does not comply with your directions, use incentives or rewards to improve future behavior. Rewards can be as simple as parental attention or praising your child. Other options may include following through with a loss of a privilege (not just saying they will not be able to play). Imagine that your boss deducted money from your pay if you didn’t reach a performance goal. You will probably work harder to meet goals so that you can get an increase in pay versus loss.
So the next time you think about why your child doesn’t listen, remember the ABC’s of behavior. Behavior change occurs by modifying antecedents and consequences. The key to changing your child’s behavior is that you must be prepared to change your own.
© Copyright 2012 Erlanger A. Turner 
 Note: There are a number of reasons why children misbehave in addition to what is mentioned above. This post is not meant as a substitute to seeking professional help if desired or needed. One helpful resource may also be reading a self-help book on parenting by authors such as Dr. Russell Barkley or Dr. Alan Kazdin.

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