Friday, November 30, 2007

Nature abhors a vacuum

Recently, just this morning, I was visiting with an excellent young therapist. We started talking about data collection and about making it simpler to which she responded how difficult it was to simplify data collection on the aggressive behaviors she was observing and which she was at times on the receiving end. (It is important to note that the therapist is not in any danger of harm in this situation.)

This brought me back to my tired old record, which I play quite often, about finding the reason for aggressive or harmful behaviors and finding and teaching a replacement behavior.
It is important to do a thorough assessment of current levels of behaviors of the person that you are working with.
Occasionally it is important to reassess the level of those behaviors, especially if there is danger; you can not totally ignore them. Safety comes first.

Our conversation thought, brought me to talking about the Hawthorne Effect. A good therapist should have a good understanding of a number of different effects including Hawthorne, Pygmalion and Halo. See: & . You must ask yourself what the effect has been, is and/or will be of continually and frequently measuring an inappropriate behavior.

I know this therapist and her husband fairly well and I asked her what the result would be if she started taking data on how many times her husband left the toilet seat up. While this may decrease the behavior there may be some additional consequences. (Frankly, while I know them fairly well, I don’t know them well enough to even know if this is an issue.) Anyway, since in a situation like this, the goal should not be to not have the toilet seat left up but to have it put down, a simple reinforcement (perhaps even a simple request) of putting the seat down is likely to be more productive all around. For a better example, if someone needs physical touch and is filling this needs in a socially inappropriate fashion, then trying to eliminate all touch is probably not reasonable. If flinging feces provides needed attention, then perhaps it would be beneficial to teach and reinforce another more appropriate way to get attention. Remember that whenever you are trying to decrease a behavior, you need to be increasing another more appropriate behavior that still fills the needs met by the less or inappropriate behavior. If you do not, the person will find another, perhaps even less appropriate way to meet their needs. As Spock astutely said in The Wrath of Kahn “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

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1 comment:

CR Petersen said...

From August 2008, Parents magazine.
Discipline for Softies
Q Why is it more effective to focus on a child's good behavior than to
respond to bad behavior with time-outs or other types of consequences?
A Studies have shown that recognizing good behavior is the only way to
teach a child what you want her to do--and to lock that behavior in.
For example, if you want your child to share and play nicely, and you
keep praising her when she lets a friend have a turn with a toy ("Wow!
You did such a nice job of sharing your doll with Emma!"), then
eventually sharing will become a habit. If you instead punish her for
bad behavior--yelling or sending her to her room when she hogs a
toy--she might temporarily change her ways. But before you know it,
she'll refuse to share again.