About mid-way through the year, a change that affects a huge portion of the population occurs! Traffic increases, notebooks and no.2 pencils sell out, schedules are rearranged, and anxiety (symptoms may include making frantic calls, misplacing important documents, ruminating on the same question for hours on end) builds. School is now in session and there’s so much to do! How do parents minimize the chaos that comes with a new set of rules and expectations for themselves and their children? The answer is let behavior analysis take care of it.
In the previous blog posts, we’ve covered the value of consistency and simple ways to make a big change. In addition to these, there are other strategies available to parents during this course of the year.
#1: Use stimulus-stimulus pairing: Start by using your enthusiasm to explain the positives of this new adventure to your child. They may not be evident! Whenever school is mentioned, it should highlight its rewarding qualities. Avoid having tough discussions about the school-year around your child. Remind them that a new teacher also means new jokes and praise and a new schedule means new activities – the goal here is to pair this novel venture with a variety of reinforcing opportunities. Other ways include creating a set of visuals that cover their proposed schedules, classroom rules, their goals for the school-year, and what they’d like to receive once accomplishments are met, whether on a daily or weekly basis.
#2: Use shaping: The first week of school is the hardest. The family has to adjust to a multitude of changes. One way to reduce a struggle between parent and child is to identify 2-3 goals that target skills your child should already know how to do, but need encouragement to do. These goals should be relevant to the morning or evening routine. For example, your child knows how to brush their teeth but will either rush through it, does it at the wrong time, or doesn’t’t do it at all until you tell them to. An ideal goal would be to include the specifics such as how long they need to brush and when. Once they’ve met these 2-3 goals, you can pick another 2-3 to work on. Eventually, those easy tasks will grow until more responsibilities, depending on how fast your child meets them. On average, goals should be met and changed each month. The key here is to provide reinforcement – meaning, if your child really likes a certain T.V. show in the morning, or maybe there’s a toy he’s been eyeing – use those as motivation.
#3: Create generalization: Maintaining open communication with your child’s teachers is important for long-lasting changes. How do we do this without being too demanding? Start with communicating your values. If your focus is to increase your child’s social skills, let them know! If it’s communication, tell them what you’re working on at home. Once that’s established, ask them if there’s a way both of you could keep track of this. It could be in the form of a daily or weekly progress note, sending finished work, scheduling monthly meetings, or recordings of what your child is doing (being mindful of HIPAA of course). Once communication is flowing, it will provide a well-rounded view of what is pushing progress or halting it.
With these tips, the school worries should dissipate. Remember to plan big, but start small. For more tips, please check out our blog or head to our Instagram page.
“Even the mundane task of washing dishes by hand is an example of the small tasks and personal activities that once filled people’s daily lives with a sense of achievement.” – B.F. Skinner