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Behavior Modification - Child Behavior Problems - Out of Control Teens - Behavior Modification Schools
How do parents effect change in their out of control teen?
Behavior Modification is part of a behavioral tradition developed by Pavlov in the early part of the twentieth century. This therapy was adapted by John Watson in 1920 and eventually translated into behavior therapy by researchers and clinicians such as B.F. Skinner and Hans Eysenck in the 1950s. These approaches were later incorporated with cognitive behavior therapy as developed by researchers such as Donald Meichenbaum.
Today, there are many branches and schools of thought with varying terminology as regards Behavior Modification therapy. Generally however, Behavior Modification therapy as we know it today is defined as the use of rewards or punishments to reduce or eliminate problematic behavior, and can teach new responses to an individual in response to environmental stimuli. It is also defined as a, “ therapy that seeks to extinguish or inhibit abnormal or maladaptive behavior by reinforcing desired behavior and extinguishing undesired behavior.”
The goal of a program of behavior modification is to change and adjust behavior that is inappropriate or undesirable in some way. When embarking on a program of behavior modification with a teen or child, it is important is that the undesirable behavior be isolated and observed. With this observation comes awareness of the behavior on the part of the parent and/or teacher, and also on the part of the individual whose behavior is being modified. And with this awareness also comes the greater goal of understanding the cause and effect of the behaviors, thus helping to affect change.
In many cases, some form of behavior modification along with cognitive therapy and medication therapy are the preferred methods of treatment for disorders such as ADD, ADHD and Conduct Disorders. Behavior modification and cognitive therapy are also commonly used in the treatment for disorders such as Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse, Mood, and Anxiety Disorders.
Behavior modification therapy is based on the concepts of observable antecedents (events that occur before a behavior is apparent), observable behavior, and consequences (the events that occur after the behavior occurs). A behavioral modification program to affect behavioral change consists of a series of stages. An inappropriate behavior is observed, identified, targeted, and stopped. Meanwhile, a new, appropriate behavior must be identified, developed, strengthened, and maintained.
Two types of reinforcers are used to strengthen positive behavior. The use of pleasant rewards to reinforce a positive behavior to help affect change is called positive reinforcement. Negative Reinforcement strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided as a consequence of the behavior. Two other reinforcers are identified as those that weaken negative behavior. One is called extinction, where a particular behavior is weakened by the consequence of not experiencing a positive condition or stopping a negative condition, and the other is called punishment, when a particular behavior is weakened by the consequence of experiencing a negative condition.
To stop an inappropriate child behavior, first the behavior must be observed. It is helpful to chart the behavior: what events precede the behavior, what time of day it is observed, etc., to understand the pattern of the behavior. It's important to at first focus on just one or two offending behavior patterns. Once a behavior pattern is recognized and its pattern charted and understood, a system of reinforcements and consequences can then be constructed.
An example of a positive reinforcement used immediately after appropriate behavior can be as simple as offering praise immediately after the behavior occurs. Extinction can be used when the behavior can be seen and measured, and an example of this would be to ignore the child’s whining behavior. This can be particularly effective if the parent has given in to whining demands in the past. However, when inappropriate behavior is ignored, then another, more appropriate behavior, must be reinforced.
An example of negative reinforcement is when a child is allowed to skip a required chore if homework is finished by a certain time. A simple example of punishment is when a child is reprimanded or criticized for the inappropriate behavior.
In order to teach and develop new behaviors, successive steps can be reinforced until the final, appropriate behavior is achieved. Based on the observed behavioral patterns, another behavioral method for success is to teach cueing: arranging for the child to receive a cue for correct behavior prior to the expected action can reinforce the child for the appropriate behavior and for recognizing the cue even before the child has a chance to perform the inappropriate behavior.
The key to a successful program of child behavior modification is consistency. And a key piece of behavior modification that parents and teachers can perform is to present their own behavior and reactions in a positive way, so that children can learn and model successful behavior.
Mental Health Glossary, C.J. Newton, MA, Learning Specialist (July 1996).
© WordNet, Princeton University , Princeton University Cognitive Science Lab.
Maricopa Community College Center for Learning and Instruction, 2004.
Utah Students At Risk, Utah State University, 2004.