Positive Behavior Support as a Family Affair
The Ruiz family puts a heavy emphasis on being proactive. We review our expectations, calendars, and chore responsibilities regularly. While doing so, we problem-solve in advance. Because transitions tend to be a challenge, we use visual reminders (pictures of room showing what “clean” looks like, lists of items needed) and count-downs to help the kids get ready. We also recognize that teaching is part of good parenting. Instead of assuming that our children know how to handle situations, we help them come up with words they can use to resolve problems and use modeling and coaching to help them do their chores correctly and completely. Caden, for example, gets pretty anxious during transitions. We have created a visual of strategies he can use to decompress (e.g., deep breathing, rocking on a ball, stretching). We reward positive behavior as well. We catch our children being good and give them specific feedback, for example, when they share their things or speak kindly to one another. Because Caden and Ben are prone to arguing, we reward good days between them with V-Bucks for their Fortnight game. We also hold the children accountable, requiring them to repair or replace anything that is damaged (e.g., by completing extra chores).
In these busy times, it is important for families to be continually monitoring how they are doing so they can stay on track with their family plan. The questions they might ask include:
- Are family members communicating effectively?
- Do positive interactions outweigh the negative ones?
- Do all the necessary household tasks get done on time?
- Do family members treat one another with kindness?
- Do family member respect established rules and limits?
- Does the family go places and do the things they enjoy?
Most families simply reflect on questions like this periodically. When things are challenging, however, it may be helpful to record progress. For example, this could be done by rating each of these or other items from 1 (poor) to 5 (great) or keeping track on what percent of chores get done or how many family outings occur.
The Ruiz family tracks progress on our calendar and chore chart. We record how well our boys get along by having the boys put either a red (fighting) or green (getting along) check mark on their calendars, as well as check off chores from the list as they are completed. We review our progress during our family meetings, celebrating our successes, gradually adding or changing expectations (e.g., chores assigned), and problem solving as needed. Upon review, we might let the children trade chores or start reducing the amount of assistance we provide. If new issues arise, we use this time to sort through them.
The Ruiz family provides a nice illustration of how PBS can be applied for entire households. With careful planning and a systems approach, families can improve their children’s behavior and family functioning in general.
Meme Hieneman, has a Ph.D. in Special Education and is nationally certified as a behavior analyst. She has published a variety of articles, chapters, and books including “Parenting with Positive Behavior Support: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Child’s Difficult Behavior.” In her professional career, Meme has worked with children with severe behavior problems for more than 20 years.
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