Recently a mother came to me for a consultation because her child, of almost 5 years of age, was defecating on the floor.
There were no concerns for autism, the child was displaying the needed afferent and efferent nerve development, essentially this was a pure behavior problem.
When I delved deeper, I found that the child was out of control behaviorally in a global sense. He did what he wanted and ignored his mother. I spent some time interacting with him and he was immediately stimulable for behavior modification as soon as he knew what the acceptable behaviors were when interacting with me, and how to use those acceptable behaviors to have his wants and needs met.
In short, the child needed to know the rules and consequences.
I gave the mother a strategy to use, a specific process so she could help the child develop a concept of a repercussion for his actions. I told her to say to the child:
I’m going to count to three, if you don’t clean that up before I get to three, I’m going to help you clean that up.
One, clean that up.
Two, clean that up.
Three, now I’m going to help you clean that up.
Then go to the child, gently but firmly take him to the mess, and have him help clean up the mess using hand over hand prompts if necessary.
This way she has given the child three important pieces of information:
- What she wants him to do.
- How long he has to do it.
- What will happen if he doesn’t do it in the provided time-frame.
Now at the end of the session the child ran outside, grabbed his mother’s shoes from the area in which she left them (I live in a place where one takes off their shoes prior to going into many places) and threw them into the street.
What did the parent do?
Sadly, she went and picked up the shoes and did nothing to suppress this behavior.
As the parent or caregiver, it is entirely up to you as to whether your child (barring specific disorders) will conform to your behavioral expectations. You need two basic things:
- A plan.
- Consistent application of that plan.
There are a multitude of behavioral plans from which to choose, that’s not the hard part. Applying a plan consistently is the hard part because it means you as the parent aren’t just trying to change the child’s behavior, you’re trying to change your own behavior.