Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Contemplating Being a Parent and a Behavior Analyst Part 1.

About a month ago, I was in Phoenix attending the Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention. As always, it was fantastic. Usually I spend 1 or 2 days attending symposia focusing on current research in the fields in which I work the most: children, developmental disabilities, autism. Then I spend a day or two attending symposia that are interesting to me in other ways. A couple of my favorite "outside of MY box" events were entitled, "Behavioral Assessment for Covert Behavior Problems", "Behavior Therapies with Juvenile Offenders: Fire, Sex, and Violence" (Let's face it, some good information was presented... and the irreverance with which much of the information was provided was certainly entertaining.), and "Expanding the Scope of ABA: Diagnosing and Treating Children with Psychological Disorders and Emotional Behaviors".

I have spent some time over the last couple of days pondering the afore mentioned presentation and really what it means to be a parent AND a behavior analyst. As a behavior analyst, I tend to want to view the entire world in a very analytic way. I like to think there is a way to solve any problem; that solving problems and teaching new skills is about using science and creativity together; and that every facet of my life can be viewed and lived most comfortably from this/my point of view. As a parent, well, I am absolutely in love with my two children. They are happy and creative and unpredictable and strong and smart and perfect. They are perfect. And yet, as a parent, I often find the need to teach appropriate behaviors or to correct inappropriate behaviors (part of my responsibilities). And I find that I don't always parent up to my expectations. I don't always teach everything I want to, the way I want to, when I want to... I find myself wanting to "be proud" of them and actually caring about what other people think of them (and by extension, me). I hate that. I consider myself a highly trained, professional behavior analyst AND a parent with very little training at all. In trying to blend both of my worlds, the "behavior analyst" and "loving, emotional parent" I know there must be a perfect balance. I know other behavior analysts who do this flawlessly. The seams that merge the two are invisible. I, however, seem to need constant reminders of who I am. I have to be quite effortful for both sides to exist or unite.

I listened to Jeannie Golden present this year (again) on childhood trauma and attachment issues. Of course, she seemed to blend all facets of her behavior analytical background and personality perfectly as she parented her daughter. I'm not sure if it was because she is one of the first behavior analysts I've heard speak as a "parent" or even if she is an "excellent" behavior analyst. However, I found myself wanting to be just like her! After the presentation I spoke with her briefly to ask her one question:
"Did you take data while targeting specific behaviors with your child?"