As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a mom, I find myself constantly navigating the challenging, yet fulfilling, roles of my professional expertise and motherhood. Many people assume that my home is a reflection of my work, filled with behavior management strategies and reinforcement systems.
However, the truth is that it is far more relaxed than that in my household. While ABA strategies are invaluable, I don’t have any one standard approach. I believe in allowing my children to be children, which means embracing and encouraging their individuality.
In this post, I’ll share the six ABA strategies that I use in my home, explaining why an external reinforcement system usually isn’t one of them, and how I strike a balance between being a BCBA and a mom.
6 ABA Strategies I Use in My Home (And Why a Reinforcement System Isn’t One of Them!)
1. Nurturing Unconditional Affection: The Power of Noncontingent Reinforcement
In my parenting journey, I’ve found the profound impact of non-contingent reinforcement (NCR) invaluable. This approach entails delivering reinforcement without a prerequisite behavior. It’s crucial to make our children feel valued and loved unconditionally, rather than solely reinforcing their behavior.
For instance, I dedicate special time with my children before bed, where we engage in activities they enjoy, simply because I want them to feel cherished and appreciated.
2. Fostering Accountability: Harnessing the Premack Principle
The Premack Principle, or the “First/Then” rule, is an ingenious technique to cultivate responsibility. The idea is simple: fulfilling obligations precedes enjoying privileges.
In our home, fun follows duty. In other words, “First (complete homework/have dinner/shower/clean-up/make lunch), then (enjoy fun/sports/media/playdate).” While this rule might not win popularity contests, it’s consistently enforced to instill a sense of accomplishment and responsibility.
3. Consistency and Accountability: The Prompt Hierarchy and Follow-Through
Consistency and follow-through are vital components of effective parenting. To ensure instructions are met, I rely on the prompt hierarchy, which involves systematically providing assistance to prompt desired behavior.
And by following through consistently, I establish trust and accountability with my children. They learn that my words hold weight and that their actions have consequences.
4. Proactive Parenting: Utilizing Antecedent Strategies
Instead of merely managing consequences, I focus on preventing undesirable behavior using antecedent strategies. These strategies involve adjusting the environment to promote positive behavior.
For instance, having snacks and toys at hand during outings helps preempt potential meltdowns or tantrums.
By proactively addressing triggers and setting clear expectations, I foster a more harmonious environment and empower my children to make positive choices.
5. Decoding Behavior: Understanding the “Why”
I would say that this is one of the most important tools that every parent should know — especially parents of toddlers. Because of my knowledge of the why of behavior, I’m able to quickly assess a situation and determine the possible function the behavior is serving.
As a BCBA, I understand the importance of analyzing the functions or underlying reasons behind behavior. By identifying why my children engage in certain behaviors, I can respond appropriately.
This approach not only helps me address their needs effectively but also encourages communication and teaches them alternative ways to express themselves. By focusing on their underlying motivations, I can address the root causes of their behavior rather than simply reacting to the surface-level actions.
6. Celebrating Positivity: Highlighting Strengths and Achievements
Parenting can be challenging, and it’s easy to get caught up in correcting negative behaviors. However, I make a conscious effort to seek out and focus on positive moments.
Training as a BCBA has taught me to find opportunities for reinforcement and to notice small achievements. By using behavior-specific praise and celebrating milestones, no matter how small, I promote a positive environment that fosters growth and self-confidence.
Why Isn’t a Reinforcement System a Strategy I Use as a BCBA Mom?
As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a mom, I’ve found myself in situations where my professional knowledge has proven invaluable in raising my kids. However, it’s not an ever-present tool.
Currently, we don’t have a reinforcement system in place, but I’m always ready to reinstate one if it becomes necessary to reinforce a particular skill.
The beauty of being a BCBA and a parent is the unique perspective it provides. It equips me with the insight to discern when my children require a specific ABA strategy or when they’re simply navigating the typical trials of childhood. This duality is something I continuously refine, learning how to seamlessly toggle between my roles as a BCBA and a mom based on the situation and my children’s needs.
In ABA, the focus is on reinforcing or punishing the behavior, not the child. But at home, my approach shifts. My children are my primary focus, and their behavior is secondary. This balance allows me to apply my professional knowledge when necessary while still embracing the joys and challenges of motherhood. It’s a journey of continuous learning, adaptation, and growth – and one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Being a BCBA and a mom requires continuous adaptation and balance. While ABA strategies are valuable tools in parenting, I am not cemented to any one approach. There is no all-or-nothing. There have been times when my kids needed a reinforcement system or a specific ABA strategy that I was glad that I could provide. But it’s not a constant in my home. The best thing about being a BCBA is that I have the knowledge and foresight to know when my kids need an ABA strategy and when they’re just being kids.
By incorporating these six strategies, I navigate the challenges of parenting while drawing upon my professional knowledge. Ultimately, I prioritize my children’s needs and constantly strive to grow as both a BCBA and a mom.