Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Data, data, data! And I've Identified Some NEW Targets!

In my first blog post, I detailed the intervention my husband and I are using to decrease the whining in our house. We have no reliable baseline data accounting for the number of whines we were experiencing during a given time in our home. I know, the best way to determine whether or not a behavior is changing (according to plan) is to take data on the target behavior before an intervention is introduced and take data during the intervention. As parents, it is often difficult to wait on baseline data before starting an intervention because... well, we get impatient!

Unfortunately, impatience typically has no reward. Even if the whining is decreasing, we have no definitive way of knowing "for sure". We are left with "feeling" like the behavior is decreasing when we've had "a good day" and being frustrated, thinking that there has been no change (or it's gotten worse) when we've had a "rough" day. It's a guess, at best. Our perception of everything around us changes depending on the variables present. Maybe it seemed the whining was practically non-existent today because we attended to other things and just didn't notice it or maybe it really did change. So data is a "MUST".

I've been looking around to try to determine what our next "target behavior" will be. Honestly, choosing one was a bit difficult! I realized that if I feel we have quite a bit to work on, I know there is one thing I should work on first: improving the ratio of "positive" interactions to one-sided, negative interactions. I read once in "Parenting with Love" by Dr. Glenn I. Latham, that parents should have no more than 1 negative interaction for every 8 positive interactions with each child in their family. In "The Power of Positive Parenting", written by the same author, he noted that he often recommended to families that they should strive for at least 20 positive interactions with their children every hour (when the children were exhibiting appropriate behavior). Of course, the interactions need to be short to fit them all in... usually around 10 words long (or less), or even just a wink or pat on the back letting them know that they are doing something right and you'd like to see more of it! Even better, be descriptive and precise about what you like. I know that my world is happier when I receive valid compliments and praise! AND I know how grumpy my world feels when I feel I am criticized and corrected in an unbalanced way. Can you imagine how kids would feel in the same situation? (Another way to insure to fit all of the positive interactions in is to IGNORE inconsequential behaviors that would typically elicit negative attention... but that post is for another day!)

Definitions of the behaviors. In order for us to track (data, data, data!) our interactions effectively, first we need to define what a "positive interaction" is and what a "negative interaction" is.
In our home, this is our working definition for a "Positive interaction": Verbal, gestural, or physical contact with child that is used to compliment, praise, or acknowledge the behavior they are currently exhibiting. It can also be the initiation or continuance of conversation that is not meant to redirect or address negative behaviors.
"Negative Interaction": Verbal, gestural, or physical contact in order to decrease or redirect an unappealing behavior.

About a year ago I made up a data sheet to keep track of such interactions. We can either write a brief note to describe the interactions or simply tally them. (Write a note in the comments section if you'd like me to email a version to you!) For now, we'll attempt to remind ourselves about "The Ratio" goal by keeping data sheets close by and with a few physical reminders in the house... a rubber band around my wrist, a special item in my pocket... maybe even a sticky note or two up on the wall (in strategic places). If I can, I'll figure out how to post a graph of our daily data soon. If not, you'll have to be satisfied with table (if I can get THAT to work:) ).

Unfortunately we won't have baseline data for the ratio of positive to negative interactions. However, we will have intervention data! While we are working on improving "The Ratio", I will begin baseline data on other behaviors that either we or their terrific babysitter have noted. They include, but are not limited to: physical fighting and/or aggression between the children, going outside without permission, and screaming/tantrumming. These behaviors have occurred enough for us to note them, but do not appear "dire". I'd like to take a little data to determine if they are isolated issues or if they need to be addressed. I'll be taking "ABC" data to help in determining the function of each of the behaviors, as well.