Here’s to a New Year and a New Resolution!
Hello 2012! The start of a new year always brings the excitement and hope of many possibilities for the next 365 days. We come up with resolutions that tend to be more focused on the things we are NOT going to do this year. I’d like to offer you an alternate view of your resolutions.
Rather than focusing on the “not,” let’s look at what you “are” going to do in the new year. With our children, we often focus on what they are “not doing” when compared to their typical peers. In behavioral programs, you will find the complete opposite. Reinforcement (such as praise) is given for successive approximations of the ultimate behavior, thus shaping the behavior we desire.
This can be applied to your New Year’s resolution. Let’s take exercise as an example. Your ultimate goal may be to exercise five days a week. If you’re not exercising at all, this could be an unattainable goal. Rather than not meeting your goal and giving up by February, look at the number of times you have exercised thus far. Praise yourself and reinforce the smaller accomplishments. Even if you have exercised only once this week, give yourself a pat on the back, a special treat. Acknowledge the step you made towards your ultimate goal.
Then the next week, focus on increasing the number of times you exercise, compared to the previous week and so forth. You will see that reinforcing your desired behavior along the way to your ultimate goal is much more satisfying; and, it will increase your chances of actually reaching your goal and fulfilling your New Year’s resolution.
You can do the same thing when viewing your child’s program. Is there one program that you want to learn to implement, or you want your child to master? Remember, these short tips and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals:
1. Determine the ultimate goal: Decide what it is that you want to do.
2. Clearly define the ultimate goal: Create a description of what you want to achieve. This should be specific, observable and measurable. The goal should be so clear that you can visually picture it with your eyes closed.
3. Break the ultimate goal into smaller steps: By breaking the goal down, it will be attainable.
4. Determine your reward schedule: From the onset, decide when you are going to give yourself that special treat. In the beginning, the rewards should be fairly frequent to increase your chances at maintaining a new behavior; and as you get closer to your goal, the rewards should be less frequent since you are closer to achieving the ultimate reward of accomplishing your goal and meeting your New Year’s resolution.
These tips offer an alternate way of viewing any new year’s resolution! Happy New Year!
Disclaimer: The recommendations provided are general. For specific recommendations for you and/or your child please consult with a behavior analyst.