Saying Goodbye to Unwanted Behavior

Had Enough of an Inappropriate Behavior?

kid behind desk

This Behavior Has Got to Stop!

Ok, it’s no secret that I reached the point where I had do something to help my son understand that his behavior is NOT appropriate. Every time we entered the chiropractor’s office, my son would crawl on the floor, hiding, then making loud non-nonsensical vocalizations that were just to make noise. He would continue to try to play a game of peek-a-boo with the receptionist, by jumping into the air and then back down to the ground, hitting and kicking the desk and making more sounds. No actual words actually came out of his mouth. He would pay no attention to the others in the office, often getting in their way and/or bumping them too. My son is almost six, so this behavior is NOT appropriate. And, no matter how much I tried to get him to stand up and say “Hello” as we entered, he would not do it.

AH – HA Moment

This was not the first time my son had unexpected behavior. I had already started listening to parenting materials, reading books & blogs, and even taking classes. What I’m going to share with you is something I learned along the way, blending information from it all. I did have an ah-ha moment in an ABA class, which is all about methods to teach appropriate behavior and reduce inappropriate behavior, specifically to kids on the spectrum. That day during class, I created my PLAN. In all the visits to the chiropractors office, I just assumed my son would know to walk in nicely, say hello and not make a scene. But, this is not the case. My son needed massive amounts of prepping, reinforcement and practice.  The appropriate behavior would need to be broken down into steps and pretaught to him. Additionally, he was obviously needing some playfulness, so I took that into consideration when I made my plan. I also realized that his inappropriate behavior was also actually being reinforced… as the receptionist would smile warmly and laugh and giggle at him. She was not aware he was not in control of himself or had the struggles he does, so she just though he was playing a game with her. Anyway, I also realized that if I don’t teach my son exactly what to do in new situations, then any behavior is fair game.

MY PLAN – Behavior Extinction

First, I created a social story with several steps and pictures that explained exactly what the “expected” behavior was. I reviewed it with him many times and told him he would get a star for every step. Then, we practiced it 10 times in one afternoon…. that is, I entered the office with him 10 times and supported him through each of the steps, giving him stars along the way. Steps included things like ‘stand up, make “eye contact” and say “hello”‘. I also talked to the receptionist about our plan and got her on board with it. Now, weeks later, I still gently prep him with some verbal reminders on the way to the front door, and I am there for support if he forgets the next step or to make eye contact or to answer a question. I also added a playful element to replace the peek-a-boo with the receptionist. I talked to him about it first. Then to “practice”, I hid 2 small objects in the car near his seat for him to find. They were peeking out from behind things like the seat belt or the car seat. Then, I told him I would do this before I picked him up from school, so he could find them when he gets in the car. I finished it with reminding him the office is not a place to play, and that we need to enter appropriately with the “expected” behavior we had discussed. Even if I had taught a replacement behavior, it may not have been so successful if I didn’t meet his motivation of playfulness and peek-a-boo with the receptionist.

  1. Create a Social Story with pictures and words of every step
  2. Review with Child Beforehand
  3. Lots of Repeated Supported Practice and Reward Every Step (I gave a star)
  4. Replace the motivation/meet their needs another way (peek a boo in the car instead of the office)
  5. Less Supported Practice ongoing as needed and fade out rewards

Now that this behavior is basically extinct, I’m focusing on the next biggest challenging behavior. I am so grateful for all the tools I’ve learned in all the classes I’ve been taking, along with all my teacher training. Parenting a kid with a strong will and unique needs is not a walk in the park. Best of luck to you.

Lots of Light, Candice.

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