Tuesday, July 1, 2014

7 Simple Chores for Toddlers

Housework can be a daunting task for a family, whether you are a stay at home mom, or a duel income household, or a busy single parent, household chores always seem to sneak up an take over at the most inopportune moments.  However, in my discussions with other parents I have found that very few parents require their children to do household chores! Research by Sandra Hofferth, found that children between six and twelve years of age spend an average of just under three hours per week on housework (and almost 14 hours per week watching television!). This pattern of behavior begins from a small age and only gets worse as the child ages. Child participation in chores are beneficial to both the children and the parents in these situations.  For parents, it's a small part of the stress relieved, if only partly, and for children  there have been numerous studies to show the benefits of this responsibility for children. Some benefits of chores for children are:

  • It teaches the children life skills in which they can become more efficient and competent with over time.
  • It instills values within the children.  It shows them that they are part of the family and they have some stake in the family and household as a whole.
  • Research shows that children who participate in household chores feel happier about themselves and their place in the family.  Chores instill a sense of self-worth in children which can carry on long into adolescents.
Now having your child become efficient in the chores they are assigned will take time, and a lot of supervision.  There are several things you can do to help ensure and expedite their competence in the chores they are assigned.

  • Start young: waiting until your child is 5,6,7 etc years old may make it difficult for you to establish the routine.  Other maladaptive behaviors, such as excess TV watching, may have already taken hold and are rather difficult to change.  I suggest starting at a young age around 18 months to 2 years, with age appropriate tasks and then adding to the difficulty as your child ages.  This will help to ensure that helping around the house becomes a "habit" and you will be less likely to have excessive resistance as your child ages.
  • Do the housework together.  This is especially important when your little one is learning the tasks, remember no one is born knowing how to do chores.  Show your child how to do the chores, and then let them do it in front of you. Make sure to provide instruction and reinforcement throughout the process. Remember it will NOT be perfect! Also, if you have a designated time when the family does chores, you will find less resistance from your child.  If everyone is doing chores, or doing the same chore there is a sense of "oneness" that will help to motivate your little one to continue the tasks.
  • Make sure to keep the tasks manageable. Only assign your child tasks that are age appropriate, it doesn't make sense to have your 18 month old put the dishes in the sink when he can't even reach it yet.  Keeping tasks manageable will help reduce frustration and will set your child up for success, which will then allow for more opportunities for reinforcement and therefore increase the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.
  • Whenever possible, try to make the chores fun. Have a race to see who can pick up the most toys the quickest, or who can clean the most dishes.  Children love games, and if you can "trick" your little one to think they are playing, they will be more likely to jump up when asked to do chores.
So here are some chores that I think are pretty common for young children (as demonstrated by my daughter).  I have also put the ages at which we started doing these chores to help you decide what chores are appropriate for your little one.
  1. Helping with laundry (2+ years): We only have her help with her laundry and it's very basic. She will carry her laundry basket (a simple pink square bin) to the laundry room, and will then carry it to the couch for me to fold.  She would love to help fold but that ends up being too much of a mess, so she will sit on the floor and hand me the clothes to fold.  If she is in the laundry room when the wash finishes she also helps me put the wet clothes into the dryer

2. Put dishes in the sink (2+ years): After each meal when she gets off of her chair she takes her plates and cups and puts them in the sink. She LOVES this.

3. Throw away trash (18 months+): She does this with her napkins after meals or with any food wrappers.  I also ask her sometimes when I'm picking up around the house to throw things away for me.

4. Help with the yard work (3+ years): So this is new chore we have added, and it is very basic.  She doesn't do actual yard work she just helps with some basic stuff. We have a very large piece of grass in the backyard and when my husband mows the lawn with the ride-on mower large clumps of grass are left behind.  These lumps of grass can kill the grass, so when we are outside picking up the clumps she will help us and she gets SO excited to be doing "big kid" stuff.

5. Making your bed (3+ years): The bed does NOT look perfect. I don't expect it to either.  I mainly want her to put her sheets and blankets on the bed in an organized manner along with her stuffed animals.  I mainly don't want them all over the floor or in a huge pile on her bed.  We get varying levels of organization, but the important part is she tries hard.

Like I said, or goal is for moderate neatness at this stage...but she is having fun!

6. Putting her toys away (18 months+): We started this very young as a basic necessity.  I couldn't keep up with all of her toys and I was going crazy continually picking up after her.  So I started having her clean up on her own.  At first it was just putting items in their box, and initially I had to hand over hand prompt her to do it and provide continual praise and reinforcement.  Once she became independent in the task I faded my praise to a more normal level.  Now as she has grown the cleaning up toys has progressed to cleaning up her room.  Every toy has a place and after she is done playing with her toys she is supposed to put them away.  If she doesn't then she needs to clean her room when she is done, so she gets to decide if she wants to clean up a couple small messes or clean up a giant mess. It's all up to her!

7. Cleaning up her messes (18 months+): This one is pretty basic. From the age of 18 months if she would spill her drink I would hover her a towel and tell her to clean it up.  Of course initially I would show her and then hand over hand prompt her to do it with lots of praise.  Now she is able to independently getting the kitchen towel herself and cleaning up without even telling me she spilled!

So that is my list of chores for young children.  Let me know if you have any additional chores your little ones do at home, I am always looking to add where I can, because she LOVES helping around the house.

UPDATE:  We have recently purchased this Melissa and Doug magnetic chore chart to help us keep track of Isabella's daily chores.
It's a really cool design, there are several different chores for you to pick from, with corresponding pictures for the non-readers.  And there are two blank slates for you to write your own chores in so you have some flexibility.  And there are a TON of smiley faces with things like 'awesome", "good job" and "you did it" on them.  My daughter absolutely LOVES this board and loves putting her "stickers" on after each chore.  The way we have it worked out is if the majority of the boxes are filled out by the end of the week she gets to pick a prize from the treasure chest.  I basically just took an old cookie jar and filled it with little toys from the dollar store, and this has been enough to motivate her.  For older kids you could use it as a way to keep track of earning an allowance.  I decided to put it on our family command center so it's in the middle of our kitchen which is the family hub of our home. That way everyone can see what she has done so far that day....her favorite thing to do is show her daddy once he gets home from work.  If you would like to purchase this chore chart, or one like it they have a bunch on amazon.com and here is the link to this specific one.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

How to Be Free of the Pacifier!

When the majority of us started out on this roller coaster ride of parenthood, we LOVED the pacifier for its amazing ability to calm our little ones, lull them to sleep, and provide comfort when mommy isn't enough (scratched knee anyone).  However, as our littles grow up we begin to despise the pacifier.  Most of us find it becomes an extra appendage for our little love bugs.  Often times in their mouth obstructing their speech (and therefore making it impossible to understand) which increases everyones frustrations.  And then, there is the inevitable lost pacifier right before bedtime, which results in a mad scramble to find said pacifier so you can finally watch ONE show from your DVR.  Now trying to get rid of this silicone menace can often times lead to tantrums, crying, and sleepless night that remind us of our early days of parenthood.  However, I have developed a very simple way to ween your little one off of their pacifier with minimal tears! As with anything in parenting, consistency is key to everyones success, but I used this method with my daughter and it was not difficult at all...and she is STUBBORN.

The first thing you have to assess is your child's ability to self soothe.  If the pacifier is still the primary way your child can be soothed after a bump or fall, you may need to wait a few months before starting.  Also, I would suggest waiting if at night the pacifier falling-out of your little ones mouth results in him waking up to search for it.  You need to make sure your child is emotionally capable of soothing himself before starting this process, because you don't want to make this any more stressful than it needs to be.


1) The first thing you need to do is talk to your little one, very casually, about how he is a big kid and big kids don't use pacifiers all the time.  Explain to him that pacifiers are just for bed and not for around the house. (If the pacifier is not an issue outside the bed then you can substitute this with it's for nap time only)

2) After a few days of casually talking about the change that is coming, if your little one appears to be comfortable and relatively open to the change (some resistance is expected, but here is where you need to read your child and see if he needs more time), you can begin to fade the pacifier.  You will first need to whittle down your pacifier stash to one or two pacifiers only. You can always let your little one choose which one or two he wants to keep to make it less scary.

3) Once you have decreased the pacifiers to a select one or two you will begin to fade the pacifier out.  You will first start with the times your little one will be sleeping for the shortest amount of time-naps.  This should be less stressful for him because he doesn't need to deal with it being dark, or with having to stay in his crib for a very long period of time.  Tell him that because he is a big boy (or girl) the pacifier is only for bedtime at night and not for nap time.  Do your regular nap routine, it is VERY important to keep everything in your nap time routine the SAME as it was before.  This will help to reduce any stress and it will also help signal to your little one that the expected behavior (sleep) is the same even without the pacifier.  For more information on this read sleep training your child and functions of behavior. You will want to put the pacifiers somewhere your little one can't reach-I put ours on the top shelf in the closet-during all times except for bedtime.

4) If your little one has a hard time in the beginning that is OK, in fact, it's to be expected. Continue with the routine and pacifier schedule for about a week. If you are not seeing an improvement (a decrease int he length or intensity of crying or whining) then can change the way you are fading.  If your little one takes more than one nap, then remove the pacifier for the shortest nap only.  If he only takes one nap, then you can give it to him for a few minutes until he falls asleep and then take it and put it away, so he won't have the opportunity to use it when he wakes up.  After a few days of success then move back to the schedule in #3.

5) Once your little one has mastered naps without pacifiers and is not asking for them (this may take a few weeks)  you can begin to transition away from the bedtime pacifier.  There are two ways you can do this:

  • Cut the pacifier:  This is exactly what it sounds like. You will cut a small portion of the tip of the pacifier completely off (when your little one isn't looking) and put give it to him at bedtime.  If he asks what's wrong with it, you can answer with something like "I don't know, maybe it's broken" and then walk out.  DO NOT MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF THE CUT PACIFIER.  The reason you cut pacifier is if the tip is cut your little one can't get any suction and the child can't get the same sensation out of the pacifier.  With my daughter it only took about two nights for her to bring it to my attention that her pacifier "wasn't working" I then proceeded to look at the pacifier and say "oh yeah, it looks like it's broken I guess we need to throw it away. That's okay you don't need it because you're a big girl not a baby." Stick to this line if your little one asks about the pacifier, this is likely to happen for the first couple of nights.

    • The pacifier fairy:  If you don't think your little one will be able to "get over" the pacifier without a little incentive then this is the way to go.  You explain to your little one that he (or she) is now a big kid and doesn't need a pacifier even for bedtime.  You then tell him that there is a pacifier fairy that takes all of the old pacifiers from the big kids and gives them to the new babies that need it. You and your little one will then put all the pacifiers on a string and tie that string to his doorknob before bed.  While your child is sleeping take the pacifiers off of the doorknob and leave a small toy outside of his bedroom.  This way when he wakes up and sees that his pacifiers are gone, he will have a toy to help ease the transition.
Either of these final methods will work, however I suggest you go through steps 1-4 first to make the transition as easy as possible.  Yes, you can cut the pacifier cold turkey and have it be effective, however that usually results in a longer time of crying and difficulty sleeping which often times results in the parent giving in.  When you start this process YOU CANNOT GIVE IN. If you do then you have just strengthened you child's behavior of crying for the pacifier which will only make the next time you try more difficult.  Also, note that the time frame for this fading is very CHILD SPECIFIC.  How long this process will take depends on your consistency, your child's readiness, and understanding of what's going on.  Some kids go through this within a week others can take a month or more, it all depends.  My daughter took about a month from start to finish, but that was mainly due to my hesitation to move to step five for fear of having to move back.  I hope this helps all of you out there who are struggling with this.  If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments!

*NOTE:  If your child suffers from a medical condition or a psychological (emotional) condition please speak with your pediatrician before starting this routine to make sure that it is safe and something your little one can physically handle.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to Potty Train in THREE DAYS!

Aside from getting your little one to sleep through the night, potty training is one of the most exasperating, and stress inducing tasks a parent can take on. Many a blog post has been written about how to potty train your child, and I have heard so many myths, including boys are harder to train than girls.  As a BCBA who has worked in the field for several years, I can tell you potty training is not difficult if it is done correctly.  The potty training method I used with my clients, and that I use with my own children, is scientifically proven to be effective. It is important to note that this method was originally developed to help the mentally handicapped in an institutional setting, however don't let that deter you from using this method.  Like I have said, I have used this method with my own, typically developing child and it was very simple and effective.  Just be aware that this method does require some preparation and commitment on your part, so make sure you are prepared; the majority of potty training failures are due to parent mistakes and lack of preparedness.  If you want to be successful in your potty training, you have to be consistent and follow through, no matter the messes.

The first thing you need to do to prepare for potty training is mark out 3-4 CONSECUTIVE days that you and your little one can be at home all day to do this method.  The reason fro this is you need to make sure you are able to set up as many A-B-C pairings as possible, and that you are able to consistently match the appropriate behavior (i.e., going in the toilet) with an appropriate consequence (i.e., reinforcement).  To be successful in this method, you need to create as many pairings as possible.

The second thing you need to do is buy a TON of children's underwear, because when you start this method you need to take your kiddo out of diapers PERMANENTLY, with the only exception being diapers at night, because night time wetting isn't about training, it's about age,  Studies have shown that children who switch between diapers and underwear (yes pull-ups count too) take longer to potty train, then their peers that are only in underwear.  The reason for this, is the A-B-C contingency isn't consistently being reinforced.  Sometimes, it's okay for him to pee in his pants, sometimes it's not-you see how that can get confusing for our little ones.  Once all of that is done you can begin your potty training adventure!

Materials Needed:

1) Timer (your microwave timer is fine, just something you can hear)
2) Reinforcers- These should be something your child really likes but they also need to be small and simple to remove. I used chopped up Reese's Pieces for my daughter and these worked great.  You also need to make sure your child doesn't have access to the reinforcer before hand, they need to be in a state of deprivation.
3) Chart-Something simple for you to write down when your child sat on the toilet, when he got off, and if he was successful or not.
4) Potty seat
5) Books, toys, movies, things small and portable you can have in the bathroom
6) Chair for you
7) LOTS of water
8) Salty foods


1) Wake your child up and immediately put him on the toilet. DO NOT give him an opportunity to go in his diaper. When you put him on the toilet begin feeding him salty foods to make him thirsty and then giving him lots of water (this will make him pee more and increase your opportunities to pair the desired behavior with a reinforcer).

2) Write down what time you put him on the toilet. Continue to feed him salty food and water UNTIL he pees in the toilet, this is now your baseline time.  This is the longest you will let him sit on the toilet without peeing. Write down the time when he went pee and also that he peed. NOTE: It may take several hours to get your baseline, that is okay, that is why you have all the toys and fun stuff in the bathroom. (That's why we call it a "potty party").

3) Immediately after he finishes peeing, give him tons of praise, and his reinforcer, and take him off the toilet (he should be in his underwear now).  Set the timer for 5 minutes and let him go and play.  During this time be right next to him.  This is done for two reasons: first, you need to continue to feed him salty foods and water (to make him pee again), and second, you need to make sure he doesn't have an accident.

       3A) If he does not have an accident when the time goes off, tell him something to the effect of     "good job not having an accident". Then put him back on the toilet, you will continue to feed him salty food and water until he either goes pee (then repeat steps 2-3) or until you hit baseline time.  If baseline time is hit then take him off the toilet and set the timer for another five minutes.  If he pees on the toilet let him off.  If he has three consecutive times at 5 minutes WITHOUT an accident, you can increase his next time off by 5 minutes (i.e., he now has 10 minutes off).  With each three consecutive breaks without an accident you will increase the time off by 5 minutes until he is at the typical length of time between urination for his age.

       3B) If during any of the times off he has an accident, DO NOT SCOLD HIM. Help him change out of his underwear and into a clean pair.  Then have him help you clean up the mess.  It is important that he help you to clean up, this shows him that having an accident result in a non-preferred activity i.e., cleaning up pee, while going pee in the toilet results in a preferred activity i.e., access to the reinforcer.  Once the mess is cleaned up restart the time for another 5 minutes and continue to feed him salty foods and water until the timer goes off, then go through steps 2-3 and 3a or 3b.  Remember he needs three CONSECUTIVE successes in the toilet to increase his time off, so any accidents mean you start over in your success.  That means if he's had two consecutive success and then has an accident you CAN NOT increase the time upon his next success because you don't have three consecutive success.  If you notice you have increased the time and he is not having any success, go back to the last successful time to create those pairings again.

4) Once he has reached the typical amount of time between urinations (usually 2-3 hours depending on age) and is consistent with his success you can start working on him telling you he needs to go potty.  This usually happens on the second day or so, when the time goes off you will ask him if he needs to go potty.  if he says "yes" take him, if he goes give him lots of praise and a large portion of the reinforcer, for example a large piece of Reece's.  If he doesn't go, tell him it's okay and let him off, no punishment, no big deal.  If he says that he doesn't need to go don't force him.  Keep an eye on him and if you see him doing the "pee dance" ask again.  If he has an accident help him change and clean up like you did in step 3B and reset the timer.  Doing this will help him to recognize the sensation of needing to go pee, without a diaper.  If he INDEPENDENTLY comes to you and tells you he needs to go pee (you didn't ask him) and he actually goes, give him LOTS of praise and a HUGE piece of the reinforcer, for my daughter I gave her half of a Reece's Pieces (pretty big for an 18 month old).

NOTE: This training is focused on training for urination, this is because it is a lot easier to bring about urination (by salty food and water) than bowel movements.  You will have to read your child's visual ques for BM's.  This may be straining, hiding, squatting, etc and ask him if he needs to go poo. Then put him on the toilet and reinforce when he is successful.  It usually doesn't take that long to potty train a child for BM's because the concept usually generalizes from urination training.

Since you will NOT be putting him in diapers or pull ups during the day I suggest getting a small backpack for him to wear that holds all of his accident accessories.  I purchased one for the first time I took my daughter out after our third day of potty training.  I put a few extra pairs of underwear, pants, socks, and shoes  in it, along with some paper towels.  I had her carry it and I told her she was a big girl and these were her accident supplies but that we didn't want to use them, and she needed to tell me if she needed to go potty.  I also showed her that her Reese's were in the bag as well so she new she would get a prize if she went in the toilet. This worked great!

After you have been going about town for a couple weeks, depending on the child, you can begin to fade the reinforcer. Instead of giving him a treat every time he goes pee in the toilet, fade to a treat every other time.  Still give vocal praise, but have it be more subdued, not a full parade but a happy "good job, you're amazing".  If he asks for his treat tell him "next time".  Once you know he can still be successful with a treat every other instance, then fade to every two times, then every three times, etc until he is at a more typical reinforcement schedule, of subdued vocal praise.

I also suggest you get a pee mat for your car seat (image below).  The slide very easily onto the seat and can hold unto a liter of fluid, which makes it so you don't have to tear your entire car seat apart just so you can wash the cover.  Instead you just pull of the pad and throw it in the washer, super easy! This was by far my favorite potty training accessory I purchased during this entire thing. Babies R Us has a really cute one with pockets for storage that I like a lot.

I hope this post was easy and helpful for all of you venturing into this amazing milestone.  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and I will respond as soon as I can. I will also be creating a potty readiness post and linking it here for you all to know when your little one is ready to "be a big kid."

*NOTE: Before beginning any potty training routine, you should consult with your pediatrician to make sure there are no dietary or physical issues which may impede the potty training process i.e., constipation, lack of bladder control due to sphincter development issues, etc.  If any concerns arise during potty training you should consult your pediatrician immediately to make sure your little one is healthy and thriving under this new condition. I can not provide medical information and advice as I am not a medical practitioner.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sleep Training Your Child

*Note this blog contains a topic of controversy amongst parents. This is my story and why we chose the sleep method we did. I am not saying that other methods are wrong, just my reasoning for my choice.  YOU have to do what's right for YOUR family.*

Okay so this picture is a little (or a lot) misleading, this blog isn't which is better it is why I use one over the other.  In my family we sleep trained (a.k.a. cry it out method) my daughter.  We did not start out like this.  When we brought her home from the hospital we knew we didn't want to co-sleep, the risk of rolling over on her, or her suffocating on our blankets (she was born in December) was a real fear. BUT, she did sleep in a co-sleeper right next to our bed.  I tirelessly woke up every hour on the hour, brought her in bed snuggled her, fed her, changed her...and the repeat EVERY HOUR. After a month or so this routine got a little old, especially since I was home with her all day and could barely function.  So then we moved her into her own room. She woke up every hour (maybe two if we were lucky) and would not go to sleep unless she was laying on my chest.  Most of the time when she woke up she wasn't wet or hungry, just wanted to be on my chest.  We tried sleep aids like the music bear, or the bear that has a heart beat. I was exhausted, and quite frankly so was she, Isabella napped like crazy during the day, because she wasn't getting any sleep at night.  It was two months in and I was desperate for a solution.  I was going to go back to work in a month and I could not imagine being awake for the majority of the night, just to go to work and work all day with my clients (I was an in-home ABA therapist for children with Autism), so I needed to be alert at work.  I was at my wits-end and didn't know what to do, until a friend of mine suggested the book Baby Wise...and it was a GOD SEND!

When I was reading Baby Wise I started to research the "cry it out method" as well as co-sleeping to see if the hype was true about how bad cry it out is for kids, and to also see what negative impact if any co-sleep had.  What I found through my research is that neither method caused negative emotional or mental impacts on children, even in follow-up studies six years out.  The researchers ran tests analysing: mental health, sleeping patterns, psychosocial functioning, relationship with parents, mother's mental health (depression, anxiety, and stress), parents' parenting styles, and levels of stress. Stress levels in children were determined by measuring cortisol levels in children's saliva.  The results of the study were: "At the five-year follow-up, 225 children and their families were included from the 326 that were eligible (69%). The key finding of this study was that there were no differences seen between children and their mothers who received a behavioural intervention compared with those who received usual care for any of the outcomes studied. This was found for both unadjusted and adjusted data." 

This means that all of the "bad things" that people say crying it out causes, are scientifically proven to not exists.  There was one study that did say that crying it out was detrimental, however when you look at the group of children, they were Russian orphans, who spent their entire lives in the cribs.  They were fed, changed, and slept in the cribs and were never cuddled or interacted with in any way...this is NOT the cry it out method...that is neglect...BIG difference.  Additionally, when I read up on co-sleeping and spoke with parents who chose to co-sleep, I found that a big complaint from almost all of them was that their children co-slept for WAY longer then the parents wanted.  I heard parents say that it was very difficult to transition their kids to their own rooms and often times slept with parents until five or six years old, if not longer.  This often resulted in the parents taking different beds and splitting the kids to make sleeping easier.  Now I know this is not everyone's scenario, but it did come up a lot more often then I would have expected.  So, my husband and i decided to go with the cry it out method and we loved it.

As the picture states, consistency is the key.  Just like my previous posts about functions of behavior and consequences, if you are trying to change a behavior you need to be consistent with the consequences.  So this is how we effectiely (and quickly) sleep trained our daughter with cry it out.

The first thing you need to do is determine a schedule for you and your child.  It doesn't need to be super stroked, but it does need to follow pretty closely every day.  Now when I say schedule I don't mean regiment every aspect of your day, I mean plan out when you will put your child down for naps, when ideally they will eat, and when they will go to sleep.  This will help you outline your day and stay consistent. Next you have to determine how much sleep your child needs (see the chart below).  Once you know how much time your child needs to sleep at night and during the day, you can figure out how long he should be awake before each nap.

I started sleep training when my daughter was two months old, so she was up for about three hours before each nap.  Upon waking up I would take my daughter out of the crib and bring her downstairs.  I then would prepare he breakfast and feed her.  After she finished her milk I would play and interact with her as much as possible, getting in all the cuddles, social interactions, and learning that I could. When we were at the three hour mark I would take her upstairs and put her in the crib and leave.  Here is where the consistency is VERY important.  She would obviously begin to cry (because playing with mommy is WAY more fun then going to bed, duh), but I would wait and see.  If she cried for 10 minutes I would wait for a second of quiet (usually when she was inhaling) and then go in and pick her up. I wouldn't be overly exuberant and active, I would just pick her up and spend a little more time with her, either downstairs or in her room (because obviously she wasn't tired yet).  I was still happy and friendly with her but just not as much engery, because I wanted to signal to her that it was time to relax.  After about five minutes of interaction I would put her back in the crib, and leave. I did this same routine before every nap, and I will tell you she only got to the 10 minute mark of crying twice, all the other times she stopped crying within a few minutes and would lay in bed quietly until she fell asleep, usually five or so minutes later.

I also started learning her cues other than crying.  According to baby wise, crying is a child's last resort at communication, children have dozens of subtle cues that we as parents need to learn and respond to.  For instance, if I heard her make noise in the crib (not cry, but just tussle) and I saw in the video monitor that she was sucking her hands, that was a sign she was hungry, so I would go in and take her out and start the entire routine over.  I learned to pay attention to signs such as rubbing eyes (when she got older), eyes staying closed a little longer during blinks etc, to refine my schedule so that I put her in the crib when she was tired, so that she would spend very little time awake in the crib.

At night, when she would wake and cry, I would look at the time.  If it had been a few hours and she could be hungry I would go in and feed her, if she did not feed I would just put her back in her crib (once I made sure she was dry as well) and leave; if she fed, then once she was done I would change her and put her back to bed. I remained quiet and calm during this time like I did before naps to signal to her that it was in fact time to sleep.  If she was crying and it was to early for her to feed, I would wait to see if she calmed down, if she did great, if she hit the 10 minute mark I would go in to her room, take her out of the crib, try to feed her and change her and then put her back in the crib.  By doing this you are helping your child associate certain stimuli (i.e., her crib, quiet voices, relaxed mannerisms, etc) with sleep, instead of associating your bed, the car seat, or nursing with sleep.

We did formal sleep training for about two weeks, after that she was sleeping almost entirely through the night, waking up only twice to feed.  Any other time that she woke up at night she was quiet, and just observed the night time light toys attached to her crib and fell back asleep.  After the first three days she wouldn't even cry when I put her in her crib for naps or bed, and fell asleep within minutes.  I was rested and happy, and she seemed to be happier as well, and I felt like I was able to interact with her more than before, because she was not spending the majority of her day asleep, trying to recoup from the sleepless night before.

Finally, I don't see any issues with my daughter today that I have heard listed as "horror stories" that happen with cry it out.  She is a happy, loving, cuddly, kind child who is still a great sleeper and goes to bed with ease.  I feel like she has a great connection with both my husband and myself, and her emotional and social interactions are on par to her peers that were not sleep trained.  Like I said, either way that you decide to raise your children, it's up to you.  Scientific evidence shows that there are no negative psychological effects to either method. I chose sleep training because it was what was best for my family, and I will sleep train my son when he is two month old as well.  I wanted to right this post to help clear up some of the misconceptions about sleep training and show that the parents that sleep train are not "uninformed monsters" but parents who made the best choice for their family, and that should be respected, not judged.

Friday, March 21, 2014


So far we have gone over the ABC's of behavior and the functions of behavior. Now it is time for us to focus on the "C" in the ABC's of behavior, today we are going to discuss consequences!  Now like we have talked about before, a consequence is any stimulus that immediately follows a behavior.  A consequence can be administered by another person or can occur naturally without being administered by another person.  It is important to note that in order for a consequence to be the most effective it MUST occur within 0-3 seconds of the particular behavior.  Consequences that occur after that time frame may still effect behavior but it will most likely not have as strong as an effect because there has been too much of a delay, or alternate behaviors may have occurred that are not being reinforced.  Now consequences can either increase or decrease the behavior they follow, depending on the type of consequence that are delivered.  There are two main categories of consequences: Reinforcement and punishment, and of those each has two subtypes: negative and positive.

When we think of positive and negative we need to go way back to elementary math class and think of addition and subtraction.  There is both positive and negative reinforcement, as well as positive and negative punishment.  The positive and negative are not denoting something good or bad happening, but rather if a stimulus is being added (positive) or removed (negative). Remember, we can not determine if a consequence is a reinforcer or a punishment, until we see how FUTURE behavior is effected. If the behavior increases then the consequence was a reinforcer, if it decreases then the consequence was a punisher.

  • Positive reinforcement:  You add a preferred stimulus after a particular behavior and that behavior increases in the future under similar conditions.
  • Negative reinforcement:  You remove an aversive stimulus after a particular behavior and that behavior increases in the future under similar conditions.
  • Positive punishment: You add an aversive stimulus after a behavior and that behavior decreases in the future under similar situations.
  • Negative punishment: You remove a desired stimulus after a behavior and that behavior decreases in the future under similar situations.
It is important to remember that the type of consequence that is provided must be appropriate the the function of the behavior, and a FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT replacement behavior must also be taught.  Also, remember that we want to use punishment as a last resort, ethically we should exhaust all possible means of reinforcement BEFORE we move to a punishment technique.  Granted this is not always the case when we are parenting our own children, and we must use punishment with discretion. However, in the professional setting punishment is a LAST RESORT.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Functions of Behavior

As the title states, today we are going to discuss the functions of behavior! We have learned the ABCs of behavior (if you have not read this post please do so here first).  The first thing to go over is what the heck are functions of behavior! In its simplest definition the function of a person's behavior is the reason the behavior is occurring.  It is important to note that function and topography of a behavior are different. Function is WHY the behavior happens and the topography is WHAT the behavior looks like.  It is important to note that you can have many behaviors that look COMPLETELY DIFFERENT but have the same function. Likewise you can have a behavior that LOOK THE SAME but serve different functions. When this happens we say a behavior has multiple functions.  An example of this is when a child tantrums for attention but eventually learns that when he tantrums he also gets a toy, so he may begin to tantrum to get toys and at other times he may tantrum for attention.  Once we know the function of the behavior we can utilize our knowledge of the ABCs to change the antecedents and the consequences of the behavior and teach more appropriate behaviors that serve the same function.  This is a very important point: THE NEW MORE APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR MUST SERVE THE SAME FUNCTION AS THE BEHAVIOR YOU ARE TRYING TO CHANGE. If the new behavior does not have the same function, then the inappropriate behavior will not decrease.

So now lets go over the functions of behavior, there are four functions of behavior that are recognized in applied behavior analysis:

1) ACCESS TO ATTENTION: In this function the behavior occurs to help the person gain the attention of a preferred individual.  This is usually seen in nonvocal children and adults as this is their primary means of getting the attention of people they come into contact with.

   An example of this is when a mom is on the phone talking to a friend and her toddler approaches her.  At first the child pulls on moms pants and mom tells her to wait. After several minutes the child begins to whine, mom looks at her and says "shh" the child then begins to whine and cry louder (because the last time she whined mom stopped talking for a second). This continues until the child is crying uncontrollably and mom hangs up and tends to her crying child.

2) ACCESS TO A TANGIBLE:  In this function the behavior occurs as a means of getting the persons needs and wants met.  The individual wants something (toy, food, activity, etc) and when he is unable to attain it begins to tantrum until it is given to him.

     We have all seen an example of this at the supermarket. A child wants the ridiculously overpriced and sugary cereal and mom says "no". The child begins to plead and whine, and mom says "no" again. Eventually the whines get louder and the tears start flowing. After several minutes of a full blown tantrum and the mom enduring stares from judgmental fellow shoppers, she goes back and gets the cereal.

3) ESCAPE/AVOIDANCE: Here we see someone engage in inappropriate behaviors to avoid or escape a non preferred activity or item.

       This can been seen with any parent trying to get their child to take a bath.  Dad tells Johnny "okay it's time for a bath" Johnny begins to whine and dad says "okay you get one more minute". Here Johnny's whining served the function of avoidance since the bath (or the walk to it) had not begun.  After a minute dad says "okay the minute is up time for bath" and turns off the TV and begins to guide Johnny to the bathroom. Johnny first whines and then starts screaming, crying etc. Dad then says "fine, no bath tonight, lets read a bedtime story". So here Johnny's behavior served the function of escape because he did not have to take a bath.

4) SENSORY/AUTOMATIC: Here the behavior itself just feels good. The severity of this behavior can range from flicking your pen while you read a text for homework all the way to the hand flapping that is sometimes seen in individuals with autism.  Again, it is important to note that with automatic behaviors, the behavior itself just feels good.

Now in the attention, tangible, and escape/avoidance functions it is important to note that I used the same topography of the behavior (i.e., tantrum) however ANY behavior can have ANY of the above mentioned functions.  I just used a tantrum for simplicities sake, and its most likely something we have all witness, whether we have children or we don't.  So with that our discussion on the functions of behaviors is done, and next we will be discussing the consequences of behavior: Reinforcement and Punishment.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The ABCs of Behavior

For today's post we are going to review what is arguably the foundation of behavior analysis, the ABC contingency, otherwise known as the Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence contingency.  This contingency states that all behavior does not happen in a vacuum, separate from the environment in which it occurs.  So now lets break up this contingency into its core parts and review their importance for changing and maintaining behavior.

ANTECEDENT: The easiest way to think about an antecedent is the event that occurs immediately before the behavior occurs.  It is what sets the stage for the behavior that occurs, this is a key point in determining part of the function (or what the point of the behavior is).

BEHAVIOR: A behavior is really anything a living organism can do. This includes: eating, drinking, thinking, talking, dreaming, crying, etc. In school we were given the "dead body test" which is basically if a dead body can do it, then it's not behavior (so basically, laying still without breathing, blinking, thinking, etc.) everything else is a behavior.  Behaviors can be adaptive (good behaviors we want) or maladaptive (bad behaviors we want to change). Every behavior is elicited (or brought on) by an antecedent event.

CONSEQUENCE: A consequence is any stimulus that immediately follows a behavior.  A consequence can either increase the likelihood of a behavior happening in the future (reinforcement), or decrees the likelihood of a behavior happening in the future (punishment). The farther a consequence is removed from the behavior (the longer the time between the behavior happening and the consequence happening) the less likely it is that their will be meaningful behavior change.  In order for a consequence to be effective it should happen between 0-3 seconds after the behavior.

By understanding the basic ABCs of behavior we can begin to determine the function of the behavior, and once we understand the function of the behavior we can manipulate the consequences to either increase or maintain the behavior (if its a desired behavior) or decrease the behavior (if it's a negative behavior) and replace it with a more appropriate behavior.  It is important to remember that we need to ALWAYS replace a negative behavior with a FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT appropriate behavior.  Next, I will go over the various functions of behavior so hopefully all of this will come together and make more sense!