Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Being a Parent AND a Behavior Analyst Part 2.

Hello! This will be the long awaited (or long since forgotten about) Part 2 on being a parent and a behavior analyst. Part 1 can be read here.

In short, Jeannie Golden and I chatted just briefly after her presentation. I asked her if she took data on behaviors she wished to target while parenting her daughter, who exhibited extreme aberrant behaviors. She said, "no". She wasn't apologetic. She just didn't take data. She felt that she understood the principles of behavior and was able to parent without doing so.

I pondered this for some time after the conference. I was a little perplexed and uncomfortable for awhile. I mean, we are behavior anaysts. If we are doing behavior analysis, we'd need some data to analyze, right? Or wait, maybe we are parents and we don't need a pencil and paper attached to us to make day to day decisions... How do we or should we compartmentalize our "professional" way of doing things and our own parenting methods? But then it hit me. There are many ways to be a good parent! Each parent must do what is right for his/her family! I'm not sure where the "behavior analyst" line begins and ends. I don't think it is clear. It's blurry for me, at least.

I often enter families' homes and request data collection for a range of behaviors. AFTER I became a parent, I realized that it is difficult to take data and run a home and family. It doesn't have to be impossible, but it isn't easy. Often, when I am asked to reduce a child's aberrant beahvior, the data I request has included rates of adult and child behaviors. I feel that it's necessary to have this information and it often serves as a useful tool in shaping parent behavior and training quality parenting skills.

When I'm feeling the best with my ability to teach behaviors/skills to my children, I'm using principles of behavior analysis (positive reinforcement, shaping, extinction, prompting, fading, oh the list goes on and on). When I'm not feeling the best, usually I find that I need to kick myself into gear a bit to get back on track. That's when I take data. The visual representation serves as a reminder, a teacher to me. This is what works for me. I'm not "doing" behavior analysis on my kids 24/7. But I do try to use the principles behind it to parent. This is just what has worked for me. Other professionals may parent differently but this works for me... for now.

I'm grateful to Jeannie Golden for taking the time to answer the question, "Did you take data?" I'd been trying to figure out why I didn't "feel" like a behavior analyst all of the time. What I've learned is that first, I am a parent. I am human. I'm sure I occasionally reinforce (therefore, increase) inappropriate behaviors because my children's silly and sometimes undesirable behaviors make me want to snuggle with them! But I'm not ruining them by doing so... I just may have some things to correct later! :)

Sometimes as a parent and a behavior analyst I felt like a tight rope walker without a net... lean too much to one side or the other and I will crash. But now I don't think the analogy is right. I think being a parent does feel like walking a tight rope sometimes... but my knowledge of behavior analysis is my net.