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Filtering by Tag: motivation

It Takes a Village: Competing Motivations

Kerri Milyko, Ph.D. BCBA

Last month we talked about the “won’t do problem.”  This is when a student does not engage in the behavior of interest not because he/she does not have the proper component skills to perform the task; it is because the environment is not arranged to help facilitate proper motivation to engage in the task.  And remember, we never “blame” the student.  The student is properly behaving with respect to his/her surrounding environmental variables.  If your child knows that there are no consequences for engaging in the task, why should he/she bother to put forth the energy to complete the task?

This month, we are talking about situations where motivation is present; yet, a student may be more motivated to engage in a competing behavior instead of the one you want.  For example, let’s say Amy does not refuse to complete homework and on occasion will complete her homework without asking.  However, on Thursdays, it is always a fight to get her to focus on her homework because her favorite show is on at 6:00pm.  She gets so distracted by even the thought of the show that her focus is rarely on her homework.  You may even have a systematic behavioral plan set up at home where she earns prizes or playtime for completing her homework.  But on Thursday, that plan seems to loose its power.

In this example, you wouldn’t necessarily say that Amy lacks motivation or drive to complete her homework at home.  You wouldn’t necessarily say that homework time is something of which either of you are fearful.  However, for one day, because of one event, Amy doesn’t resemble the “Amy during homework time” you see on any other day.  On Thursdays, it is more reinforcing for Amy to simply think about the Thursday night show than it is to complete homework and receive her reinforcer for homework completion.

There are two things that you can do in this scenario: 1) find a more powerful reinforcer for homework completion on Thursday or 2) use the Premak Principle.  The first solution is simple.  If your student works for points that are then exchanged for various items off of a reinforcer menu (e.g., iPad time, TV time, sleepover, dessert), then Thursday can be “double points day!” Tijuana Flats has “Taco Tuesdays.”  College bars have “Ladies Drink Free Thursdays.”  These specials are regular incentives that help attract customers to these establishments.  You can have your own special at you house!  This way, you are being proactive to help avoid the inevitable endless prompts and redirections you encounter on Thursdays.

The second solution is called the Premak Principle.  You probably already use Premak but have never known what it was called other than “good parenting!”  This is when you make a highly preferred event (watching the Thursday TV show) contingent upon completion of a less preferred event (completing homework).   Therefore, Amy does not get to watch her show until her homework is finished.  Watching the TV show, although it may be a family event, shouldn’t be a “free” luxury if homework is either not completed or you have to fight tooth and nail for its completion.  We all work for the luxuries in our life, and this should not be a life lesson that is learned at a later age.

Remember, it takes a village to change the life of a child.  And while school and supplemental services, like Precision Teaching Learning Center, are essential in that transformation, the parent plays the most important role.  Setting clear expectations for the behavior you want your student to engage in, and being consistent with the consequences (positive and negative) that follow that behavior are things that should come as second nature in your home.  If you need help with setting up a behavioral system in your home, please call our office at 778-5201!

 

It Takes a Village: Motivation at Home

Kerri Milyko, Ph.D. BCBA

At Precision TLC, we are able to make significant gains with a learner’s ability to read, write, compute, reason, and learn in a short period of time.  Through our use of customized Independent Learning Plans, individualized curriculum, and practice of behavior analytic techniques including reinforcement, these gains are possible.  Sometimes, however, these gains may not be evident in all settings.  In other words, after we fixed the “can’t do problem,” parents may encounter a “won’t-do problem.” 

Over the summer, we will write about why the “won’t do problem” will creep up when there is no longer a “can’t do problem.”  This month, we will target the first and most important reason: motivation.

The largest reason why students may engage in sloppy performance or even work refusal in the presence of their parents and not in our presence is the lack of motivation at home.  At Precision TLC, each student has a performance goal (a combination of accuracy and speed goals).  Once that goal is achieved, the student accesses a reinforcer.  This reinforcer is something that is powerful.  Examples of reinforcers we use at the center include points that can be exchanged for playtime, gift cards, candy, and snacks.   See our blog about reinforcement for a reminder about the difference between rewards and reinforcers.

I can already hear half of you sigh and say, “but I don’t want to bribe my student to do something that she should do independently.”  I can sympathize with this notion.  However, if motivation is lacking, and the punishment, time-outs, taking things away, bargaining, and other stressful resolutions are not working, maybe it is time to bring in some external motivators.  By pairing the external motivators with the academic skill, you are building the internal motivation so that these external motivators, or reinforcers, can slowly be removed.

Further, if I withheld your paycheck for your job, would you still go?  We live in a world where our performance is reinforced.  Money is a huge generalized reinforcer for our work performance.  Each student’s job is going to school and completing assignments.  However, we are expecting them to work for free because it is their “duty” with the reinforcer being getting a good job or going to college.  I can guarantee that a job and college are not motivators for 99% of students under the 8th grade.

Another concern I hear from parents not wanting to incorporate a reinforcement system at home is “he is just manipulating me to get what he wants.”  Actually, you are controlling the situation.  If handing a little skittle over to a student will result tear-free, negotiating-free, yelling-free, threatening-free 10 min of focused homework time, do you not think it is worth it?  Once your student is successful at that first 10 min and subsequent 10 min intervals of focused, accurate work, then you can increase the exchange.  Now 12, 15, and 20 min are required for that one skittle.  This system can be faded to the point that the skittle is no longer involved in the process.  Sometimes you have to loose a battle to win the war.

Further, effective and powerful teachers employ reinforcement systems in their classrooms.  With the new Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) that Tampa schools now employ, a class-wide reinforcement system is considered a Tier 1 intervention that all students, struggling or not, will encounter.  It is an evidence-based procedure that has phenomenal outcomes.  See our August 2013 Blog about MTSS.