Applied behavioral analyses therapy uses the ABC model (Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence) to change negative behaviors and re-enforce positive ones. I spoke last week about changing the Antecedent – what happens before a behavior. But there is another way to help solidify and change behavior and that is the consequence.

As people we often engage in behavior to get the outcome we want.

–        Everyone at some point tries to attain attention, stimulation, material possessions or control over something.

–        Everyone at some point also tries to avoid situations such as demands, people, or certain sensory input.

So manipulating outcomes also manipulates behavior. For example: if you are avoiding someone you may not reply to an email or show up late, or in the case of a toddler scream at the top of your lungs, to get the desired outcome. But what if not replying to emails meant hundreds of messages on your phone? Or showing up late had no impact? Or screaming didn’t allow you to escape the circumstance? Would you stop doing it? ABA and behaviorists in general say yes!

So What Will A Therapist Do to Utilize This?

In ABC the therapist observes the people around your child and how they react to a scenario (the consequence) to see whether this increases or decreases the behavior.

Most of the time we aren’t meaning to increase a negative behavior; we may have a good reason for what we have done. A good example of this is something that parents do often: sooth when the child can’t handle the word no. If a child throws a tantrum and you immediately hug them and sooth them (thereby allowing them to avoid the incident), they are likely to throw a tantrum again right? Yet as parents it’s our natural instinct to throw our arms around a child and ask them how we can make it better. In this example the hug is a consequence for the child, and in this case it would make the behavior worse.  Sometimes it’s hard to see this from inside of the situation which is why a therapist is such a great tool to have.

There are plenty of consequences in a therapist’s tool kit that work and they will teach you what works where and when.

–        Blocking a child from doing something

–        Purposefully ignoring behavior

–        Praising

–        Removing objects to increase the behavior

–        Running the child through a negative consequence over and over (such as cleaning up thrown cereal very slowly)

–        And more…

As you can see, the consequences of actions are really important in analyzing why a child would repeat a behavior. Changing the outcome of a behavior to something desirable or downright undesirable helps to change the behavior in your child so they can function better and be a happier well rounded individual.