How do you know whether you’re experiencing an ‘extinction burst’ or if your child’s behavior is just getting worse?

What is an Extinction Burst?

To understand what I mean by this, I’ll give an example. If your child is hitting when asked to do something and the hitting is ignored but they still have to do the demand, a child won’t stop the behavior straight away; in fact it will get worse. Why?

Because it used to work for them! This is called an extinction burst.

When you start to ignore the behavior all together they will up the ante and try to go back to the way it was before. Because that was easier for them than listening to you.

This doesn’t make your child a bad person in any way; in fact it makes them pretty smart! They’ve figured out how get want they want in the world, and it’s wonderful they can problem solve like this. Increasing the bad behavior is actually a clever thing to do. If you did something one way, and it worked, you would keep doing more of it to get the same reaction too!

When a behavior is done for attention, and we ignore the behavior it will get worse. But then it will start to get better, because your child will realize this is just too much work. Great!

But what happens if it stays the same? And doesn’t get better at all? When do you draw the line in the sand and try a new tactic?

What if an intervention isn’t working?

There will be plenty of data and charts to show whether your child is going through an extinction burst, or the behavior hasn’t changed at all. If the behavior hasn’t changed at all the reason your child is doing the behavior may need to be looked at again. Maybe the therapist was wrong, and they did it for another reason. If this is the case, the charts will show it and the data will help them change tactics. Some other ways the therapist could change the intervention to the behavior is;

–        Changing the length of time they ignore the behavior/child

–        Expand the plan to other places where the behavior may occur more

–        Have someone else also back up the intervention

If you feel a part of therapy isn’t working for your child, you can always speak to your therapist about it. They will have the data and charts to confirm or deny your experiences. They should work with you, not against you, to help your child better function, learn more and live a more productive life.