Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ABC's of Behavioral Modification

What better way to kick off the ABC Challenge at Razzy's Corner than to talk about the ABC's of behavioral management - Antecedents, Behavior, and Consequences.

The mistake that is commonly made is to just focus on behaviors or behavior and consequences. However, a truly successful behavior plan starts with antecedents, or what happens before the behavior, so that's what we will focus on today.

By looking at the antecedents you can gain a better understanding of the purpose of the behavior and therefore what consequences to apply. If you don't understand the antecedents then your consequences can actually be reinforcing the behavior you are trying to change.

If a child is acting out because they are feeling ignored or looking for attention and the consequence utilized gives the child attention, even if it is negative attention, you can actually reinforce that behavior. However, if you are aware that the antecedent of the acting out behavior is to get attention then you can implement a strategy that ignores that behavior and likely have more success.

Sometimes determining the antecedents can be very simple and sometimes it is more difficult. If you are having a more difficult time figuring out what is leading to your child's behavior I recommend implementing a period of behavioral observations. Basically during this time you log every time the behavior occurs and what happened right before the behavior happened, as well as what the consequence of that behavior was. It is important to understand that a consequence is not always a punishment you apply. It might be more helpful to think of consequences, in this sense, as what happens after the behavior occurs. For instance, if the behavior gets the child out of doing their homework, then that is a consequence. (Consequences will be discussed in more detail in another post).

Once you have a pretty good amount of behavioral tracking data, you should then analyze the data to see if you can spot any common themes amongst the circumstances in which the target behavior occurs. In terms of how long you should log behaviors, it depends on the specific target behavior. If it is a behavior that is occurring several times a day then just a few days of tracking may be enough. However, if it doesn't occur with a great deal of frequency, than you might need a couple of weeks.

When the antecedent is clear and you feel like you have a good idea about what is leading to the behavior then you can start developing a plan to modify that behavior.

Tomorrow at Razzy's Corner: Behavioral Charts

(Any questions regarding topics discussed can either be asked in the comments section or you can email me at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's Been Happening in Razzy's Corner?

Not a whole lot has been happening on this blog lately. We had our first "real" post, which was a 5 part series on bullying. I think this was an important subject and a great way to really kick off Razzy's Corner. It was even mentioned in a fellow blogger's blog. Thanks N.R. for the mention.

Now it is time to gear up and get ready for the A to Z Blog Challenge, which will start on Friday April 1st.

Here are the topics that will be coming your way the first two days. On Friday we will kick things off by talking about Antecedents and the role they play in behavior modification. On Saturday we will talk about Behavior Charts and how to create one for your child. So check back on Friday.

I'm so excited!!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Epidemic of Bullying - Part 5

*This is Part 5 of a five part series.

In order to wrap up this series on bullying, I want to address a couple of the things we as parents/adults should NOT do when a child is being bullied, as well as highlight the need to address the person doing the bullying.

What Not to Do

  • Do not tell your child to ignore the bullying. While you may be good intentioned in telling them to do so, you may be inadvertently telling them that it isn't a big deal and that you are going to ignore it. Trying to ignore bullying can sometimes allow it to become more serious.
  • Do not blame your child for being bullied. Do not assume that they did anything to provoke the child. This may lead them to think that they are doing something wrong and that they deserve to be bullied. Of course, you do want to make sure you get as much of the truth as possible, and this is best done by involving the school.
  • Do not encourage your child to hurt the child who is bullying them. Your child may end up hurt, suspended, or expelled. Not to mention it just makes the problem worse.
  • Do not contact the parents of the child who is bullying your child. It is best to go through an intermediary, such as the school if possible. Confronting the child's parents, especially when you yourself are emotionally charged, can serve to make matters worse.
  • Do not demand or expect a solution on the spot. However, do follow-up and stay on top of the situation to make sure that it is being handled appropriately.

We need to do something to address the bullies themselves. We will need to figure out why they are lashing out at other children and help them resolve those issues. We need to send a message, and back it up, that this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. This also means that we as adults need to look at how we act and whether or not we are setting a good example for our children and acting as good role models.

For additional resources on bullying check the U.S. Government's website.

The Epidemic of Bullying - Part 4

* This is Part 4 of a five part series on Bullying

Today we will address the effect of bullying on self-esteem.

Self-Esteem: The effect on a child's self-esteem is the most concerning part of bullying (typically any physical scars heal much quicker than the emotional). It is important for parents/adults to try to protect and rebuild the self-esteem of a victim of bullying. The effect on self-esteem can be varied and seen in different ways. For my nephew it was evidenced by him asking his mom to go back on his ADHD medication (he was taken off of it because it was determined that he didn't actually have ADHD) because it suppressed his appetite and made him lose weight (his weight was a target of the teasing).

Helping a child maintain and rebuild self-esteem can be difficult because like most people, they pay more attention to the negative messages they receive. However the more positive messages they receive, the more they will internalize those messages, and eventually this will make it easier for them to dismiss the negative.

So praise, praise, praise your child. In addition, highlight their strengths. Encourage them to hang out with positive peers, who share common interests with them. Encourage them to participate in activities that will boost there overall self confidence.
With that in mind, make sure you are encouraging activities they are interested in. Even the most well intentioned of parent can do more harm by encouraging their child to engage in an activity that they don't like or aren't good at. So even if you think your son would be more popular and have a good time playing football, don't encourage/pressure him to do so when he is bad at sports or just plain doesn't like them. In many cases this may be part of the reason he is getting teased and by you pressuring him, you are inadvertently sending him the message that his bully is right and there is something wrong with him.

For additional resources on bullying check the U.S. Government's website.

The Epidemic of Bullying - Part 3

* This is Part 3 in a five part series on Bullying

Today let's talk about how to help your child cope with their feelings about being bullied.

Coping with Feelings: As a psychologist, this is the one area I probably deal with the most. I encourage children to share how they are feeling about their experience and validate those feelings. One of the most damaging things we can do as adults is fail to validate a child's feelings. Let them know that it is okay to feel sad, angry, scared, or frustrated. Which brings me to another important point, children feel various ways regarding bullying and we should not place our own feelings onto them. We may also need to help the child recognize and label those feelings.

Once we have helped the child label feelings and have validated them, we now need to help them cope with the situation. There are the immediate coping skills of telling the bully to stop, walking away, and telling an adult. Then there are the coping skills that come after.

We need to encourage our children to express their feelings. They can do this verbally (i.e. talking to an adult), written (i.e. journaling, writing down negative emotions and ripping the paper up, creative writing), and/or physically (i.e. crying, hitting a pillow, screaming into a pillow, squeezing a stress ball). The point is to take whatever the emotion is and get it out of your head and body. When we bottle up emotions, they eventually have to come out, and typically when they do it is not in a constructive or appropriate manner.

As a bit of a side note, sometimes parents/adults get freaked out or don't know how to handle it when their child expresses their feelings in a somewhat angry or violent manner. As long as it is appropriate (i.e. writing, drawing, hitting a pillow) you don't have to be too concerned. How many of us have been upset and thought about or said we wanted to punch someone or something? The feeling is normal, but impulse control and a sense of right and wrong keeps us from doing so. The same goes for children. It is normal for them to write about hurting their bully or draw a picture of them beating up the bully, and in cases like that adults need to empathize with those feelings and then talk about why it wouldn't be okay to act on those feelings/impulses, and continue to encourage them to share those feelings. Obviously if this anger and violence is being directed at someone or at themselves then you need to intervene and help them find a more appropriate way to cope. You also have to look at how violent the response is. A drawing of them beating up their bully is not as significant as a drawing of them going on a shooting spree. If in doubt, take them to a counselor to help them express their feelings. Everyone could benefit from counseling at some point in their life.

For additional resources on bullying check the U.S. Government's website.

The Epidemic of Bullying - Part 2

* This is Part 2 in a five part series on Bullying.

Today let's talk about how we can help kids keep themselves safe when they are being bullied.

Safety: Sometimes physical safety is an issue in bullying cases and sometimes it's not. Even when the bullying is of a verbal nature, it is important to help children learn ways to keep themselves safe, because sadly what starts out as verbal can escalate into physical aggression.

The main things I talk to kids about when it comes to safety are: 1) try to stay in groups when walking to and from school and during unstructured parts of the day, 2) have a safe adult that you can turn to when you feel unsafe or are being threatened and don't be afraid to tell, and 3) if you are physically attacked, protect yourself until you can escape.

The bullying with my nephew became physical on at least one occasion I am aware of when he was walking home from school and was jumped by his bully. My nephew tried to call his cousin, but the bully took his phone from him and threw it. As a result of this incident, my nephew is no longer allowed to walk home by himself and my 15 year old niece and her friends now have to follow him home.

If your child is being bullied and threatened, you just might have to find a way to make sure someone can go home with them, even if it means you have to leave work to pick them up. It may be inconvenient at times, but safety is what is most important.

For additional resources on bullying check the U.S. Government's website.

The Epidemic of Bullying - Part 1

* This is Part 1 of a five part series on Bullying

I hadn't really planned on the first offical parenting post in this blog being a serious topic. I thought I'd start it off with something a little lighter, an ode to spit up or something like that. However, a post on Facebook this morning made me change my mind. We can't avoid serious topics just because we would prefer to keep it light.

The Facebook post that sparked this train of thought was a link to an article from the Huffington Post about the seven signs your child may be a victim of bullying. This is a pretty important aspect because often times children are too afraid or to embarrassed to tell their parents that bullying is taking place, or when they have told their parents it has been dismissed by them as "good natured teasing". (I sometimes question if there really is such a thing as good natured teasing, but that is a whole different post). So obviously the first step in helping your child deal with bullying is to know that it is happening.

So then what? Once you know bullying is taking place, how do you as a parent help your child deal with it? I don't know that there is a good answer for this question. As a child psychologist, I all too often find myself face to face with children and teens who have been brought to see my by their concerned parents because they are being bullied at school. Sadly, even as a professional, I have very little in my tool box that can make the situation better. The reality of the situation is that those doing the bullying are the ones that need to be sitting in my office.

My role as a psychologist, and your role as a parent, is to advocate for these children, teach them how to keep themselves safe, help them cope with their feelings, and help boost their self-esteem. That last one is extremely important. Any type of bullying, whether it be physical or verbal, is damaging to a child's sense of self-worth. This multi part series on bullying will address these areas.

Today we will address advocacy

Advocacy: Parents and adults involved with children who are being bullied need to advocate for these children. Not only can this help to stop the bullying, but it also sets an example for children regarding how to appropriately stand-up for themselves (as long as the adult is advocating in an appropriate way. So try to avoid swearing and making threats of your own). It also shows children that they have people in their life that love and care for them, which is extremely important to self-esteem.

Let me use my nephew as an example. There have unfortunately been a couple of different perpetrators of bullying behavior towards him. The first one was I believe when he was in the 3rd grade, and believe it or not, the bully was his teacher (yes adults can be bullies too). My sister noted that her son would frequently try to get out of going to school and sometimes she would get calls from the school that he wasn't there and she would go home and he would be sitting on the front steps. My sister tried to get him to talk to her about what was going on and eventually he broke down and told her how he hated his teacher and how she said mean things about him. Now we've all heard kids say how mean their teacher is and how they pick on them, but in my nephew's case it was very much the truth. (So of your child is telling you this please at least do some follow-up on it). My nephew has a pretty significant learning disability and this teacher would call him stupid and lazy in front of the rest of the class and would do things to humiliate him. Of course once my sister found out what was happening, she went to the school and advocated for my nephew. The school made gestures to improve the situation, but nothing really ever improved. Finally my sister demanded that he be placed in another classroom; however, by then the damage had been done to his self-esteem, as well as his enjoyment of school.

The second incident of bullying happened this year, when my nephew started being bullied by a classmate, who was also a neighbor, and someone who used to be one of his best friends. Once again, my sister took to the school to advocate. My nephew was being removed from the class to talk to the guidance counselor when incidents would occur, and they were talking about moving him into another class so the boy wouldn't have the opportunity to bully him. At first glance, these seem like reasonable solutions; however, the problem here is that nothing is being done with the child who is doing the actual bullying. My sister had to advocate for her son to stay in this class, which is the first class he has succeeded in since that horrible incident in 3rd grade.

These are the steps that adults need to take to advocate for children. You have to fight until you get a reasonable and fair "solution" to the issue. You have to make those in power listen to your concerns and do something about them. You have to make them enforce those no tolerance for bullying policies. Believe me, if you won't do it no one will.

For additional resources on bullying check the U.S. Government's website.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Welcome to Razzy's Corner

Welcome everyone to my blog!!!!

I am just getting started so please bare with me while I get everything sorted out. I will spend the month of March deciding how to organize things and getting the page design how I want it. I will also be making some posts here and there, but things won't really get started until April. At that time I am using the A to Z challenge to really launch this blog.

Now you my be asking yourself "What is Razzy's Corner all about"? Well, basically this blog will focus on giving parenting information and advice. I will start out in April posting a new topic daily (because that's how the A to Z challenge works). After that I will shoot for a couple of posts a week, but will make sure to do at least one. The posts will vary in content, but will mainly address different parenting and discipline techniques, as well as various topics regarding kids. Sometimes the topics discussed will be serious and at other times they will be more on the humorous side.

I also have a young daughter and will likely be posting my own stories regarding her as well. For instance, I just had to take a break from this post because she spit up all over me, which just sparked inspiration for when I get to the letter "S". LOL!

Another component of this blog will be to help any parents out there who have a specific problem with their child, and specific questions can be left on the "Parenting Questions" page.

I am also planning a page that will highlight some of the various behavioral charts I have created for my clients (I'm a child Psychologist by day). I love creating behavioral charts and am looking forward to sharing them with everyone. I believe one of the keys to a successful behavioral chart is creativity.

Since I am just getting this blog up and running, I am open to feedback. Tell me what you would like to see. (Just don't say fewer pictures, because that won't happen. I love me some pictures. LOL!)

(Now I have to post my disclaimer, which is also on the main page for all to see)

* Please note that while I do draw from my clinical background, this blog is not intended to be psychological in nature and by reading or commenting on this blog, you are NOT entering into a therapeutic relationship.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Place for Your Parenting Questions

I have made a dedicated page where you can ask all your specific parenting questions. Check it out in the tabs section at the top of the blog.