Parenting

The Importance of Positive Attention

Most parents who are dealing with behaviour problems in their children notice that things are starting to get a bit negative around their home. More negative than positive. It starts to seem like much of the time, their interactions with their kids include some kind of asking them to do something (for the 100th time!), threatening consequences, or venting that no-one helps around here. From the kid’s perspective, their parents are always on their back or nagging about something. An excellent recipe for irritable households where no-one is enjoying anyone’s company much.

This happens even when the kids aren’t displaying serious behaviour problems.

For example, Mum and/or Dad are stressed because of XYZ and are feeling a little tired and irritable anyway, or maybe they are running late to school drop-off. And the kids just won’t get ready/make their bed/find their shoes, no matter how many times they ask or threaten to dock pocket money. Sound familiar?

The things is, when things are negative for a while, kids (and adults) can start to tune out and stop paying attention to what is being said. What is the point? They just get yelled at anyway and most interactions leave everyone feeling cranky. Why would anyone be tuned into that kind of relationship?

I want you to stop and think about a negative relationship that you have had with an important person in your life, or someone who was in an authority position. Perhaps an awful ex-boss or your cranky old maths teacher. What is it that defined that person? What were their attributes? How did these attributes affect your relationship with them? How motivated were you to work for them, going the extra mile to do your best? Hint: probably not very much.

Now, think about a really positive relationship you have had, an excellent supervisor or that awesome teacher you had in Grade 9. What was it about them that made them awesome? What were their personal attributes? How hard did you try to work your best for them? If you are like most people, you probably tried a whole lot more.

The key difference between these two people is the degree of positive attention they provided.

When your child is feeling irritable from all the negativity in the house, what kind of boss do they see you as? The bad boss! So, how motivated are they going to be to work hard and go the extra mile for you?

Increasing the level of positive attention you pay your child will help to change that uneven balance of negative to positive interactions and help both the household, and the parent-child relationship to become a bit happier. This can be done in a variety of ways. Tune into our next blog post for some tips and tricks! (You can do this easily by following our facebook page or subscribing to our email list).

Olivia Boer is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of Healthy Mind Centre Launceston, a private allied health practice in Launceston, Tasmania. 

The ABCs of behaviour

Aay, bee, cee, dee, eee, eff... sorry, got a little off track there. Lots of ABCs going on both at home and at HMC Launceston these days. Which brings me to todays blog topic: What are the ABCs of behaviour. 

A is for Antecedents

Or Anticipating a behaviour, depending on who you talk to. For both options, it means what is happening immediately before a behaviour occurs. It can be something happening in the individual's environment, or it can be an internal event such as an individual's thought or feeling. 

B is for behaviour

This one is pretty obvious; it's the actual behaviour that occurs. Remember, behaviours can also be what we want to see occurring, not just a "problem behaviour" that we want to reduce in frequency (how often it happens), intensity (how big/strong it gets), or duration (how long the behaviour goes for).

C is for consequences

Understanding the consequences of a behaviour, or what happens immediately after a behaviour occurs, is almost as important as understanding the behaviour itself. This is because consequences are VERY important in determining whether a behaviour is more or less likely to occur again the next time the individual is in a similar situation. 

Why do we care about understanding behaviour?

Our actions can have significant implications for our social, emotional, and educational/occupational functioning. Being able to understand why a particular behaviour is occurring what what can be done to increase or decrease the likelihood of that behaviour occurring can make our lives, and the lives of those around us far more pleasant, happy, and less stressful. 

Putting it all together

Think about the following example: Jimmy, aged 4 and his Mum are at the supermarket. Jimmy doesn't want to stay next to the shopping trolley (even for some Coles Mini's at the end) and runs off to the other end of the supermarket isle (the Behaviour). What happened immediately before (Jimmy seeing a big long expanse of space to run in) and immediately after (Jimmy's Mum running after him yelling for him to come back, which is quite exciting for Jimmy whilst she chases him around the supermarket) can make Jimmy more likely to do the same thing next time him and his mum go shopping. By changing the antecedents (for example, Jimmy's mum clearly establishing rules, what will happen if he breaks the rules, and giving him his own shopping list to follow) and the consequences (for example, Jimmy's Mum requiring him to hold her hand throughout the rest of the shopping trip), we can expect that Jimmy's behaviour to be closer to what his mum would like, next time. 

One final point...

When we are attempting to shape/change another person's behaviour, it is important to remember that reducing a problem behaviour is not enough. We also need to reinforce the desired behaviour (what we want to see the individual doing next time), so the individual has something to replace their old behaviour with. 

If you need some help with behaviour (yours or someone else's), have a chat to one of our clinicians who can help you work it all out. 

Olivia Boer is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of Healthy Mind Centre Launceston, a private allied health practice in Launceston, Tasmania. 

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