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Behavior Modification — But for Whom?

posted Monday April 26th, 2010

I have been working on my follow-thru. If I threaten a time out, I stick to it. If I count to three — and actually get to three — there are consequences. And if I promise to withhold a treat or toy or some other coveted something, I keep my promise.

No, I’m not perfect at this, but I’ve been a lot better lately.

It’s not really working. I thought we’d made progress a few days ago, after a particularly painful trip to Safeway, but the same thing happened yesterday in Target — Sophie ran away from me and to her chagrin wound up riding in the cart the rest of the trip. She apologized profusely after the Safeway incident, but no amount of reminders and threats prevented it in Target. Again, more apologies, but I stuck to my guns: no toys, no chocolate milk, and she couldn’t hold her new Dora panties til we got home. She was sweet as pie — til she got those panties.

The other day, I admonished Sophie for busting into Annabelle’s jazz classd while it was in progress. I (literally) dragged her out of the classroom and plunked her down on a bench, patiently (well, with as much patience as I could muster) explaining that this was Annabelle’s class, she could watch through the window but couldn’t go in, she’d already had her dance class earlier that morning, and when she’s 8 she can take jazz, too. (Well, I thought to myself, as long as she quits disrupting her sister’s class.)

Lecture over, I turned for a moment to speak to another parent, and Sophie ran right back into the classroom. I opened the door (again) to chase her down (again) but before I could get to her, the teacher grabbed Sophie’s hand  and began leading her through the steps of the routine.

She smiled a big f-you smile as I turned, shrugged my shoulders in defeat and walked out to take my own place on the bench. I could take the teacher aside and ask her to quit doing that, but the truth is that the most important thing in a situation like this is to avoid disrupting the class. For the teacher, it was clearly easier to grab Sophie’s hand than to stop class to watch me grab and drag her from the room. I get it. But how will things ever get better?

A wise friend I’ve known close to forever — she’s a child psychologist and her daughter and Annabelle have taken ballet together since they were 3, so she’s known Sophie that long — caught my eye as I closed the door behind me.

“You know,” she said with a rueful smile, “they say behavior modification really doesn’t work. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

I know the comment was designed to make me feel better, but as you might imagine, it didn’t.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

4 Responses to “Behavior Modification — But for Whom?”

  1. Oh so with you! I have learned to be a little less uptight (not saying you are, just me) about how Kayli’s behavior is perceived since many people tell me she’s really okay and mostly it’s me being embarrassed. But I also say that there are certain situations, like shopping where my tolerance is close to zero and I give good warning before I go and there is dire consequences. Thanks God she’s ten now and it’s not such an issue. Rally around “hands to self “!!

  2. oh, man. I get it, but that dance teacher pisses me off. way to undermine you.

  3. Huh. So then what are we supposed to do? Wait it out? I try to be patient and most of the time I think I am, but sometimes…it’s HARD. And annoying.

    And with other people’s reactions, I think I’m beyond the whole getting embarassed thing, but still. I’d prefer my kid not be the one that EVERYONE is staring at.

    Which brings me to the question: Is it the Down syndrome, or the Litte Shi* syndrome?

  4. Yes, behavior modification works, but Positive Behavior Support Works better. Besically it involves evaluating what the child is getting from the behavior, and letting him get it in a “kosher” way. An excellent book is:
    see also my posts from Sept. 14, 15, and 17 of 2009

    BTW, if you have only recently started being serious about follow-up, Sopie may well not have yet really realized that the rules have changed.

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