There’s an area of life where we tend to operate without figurative bookends. When we evaluate other people’s behaviors, we often view them as stand-alone, isolated events or situations. We desperately try to change the behavior, almost like we might try to stand a book up by itself, even though we know from experience that we’re not likely to be very successful in this endeavor.
Behaviors are the “B” in the ABC’s of relationships. The necessary “bookends” are “Antecedents” and “Consequences.” When evaluating behaviors, we need to first look at the antecedents—the causes, or the environment or situation that is present when the behaviors occur. Often some detective work (particularly evaluating when, where, and how often the behavior occurs, in what social context, and following or accompanying which triggers) enables us to understand why a behavior is occurring, and perhaps how it can be avoided. We also need to evaluate the consequences that a person is experiencing along with the behavior. If there are no negative consequences, it may not be surprising to find that the behavior continues. If the consequence is that the person receives much-needed attention, whether the attention is positive or negative, the person may continue the behavior as the attention unwittingly reinforces it. In my own parenting, I’ve discovered that often the most effective consequences are “natural” consequences; those which are closely tied with the behavior. I’ll write more about natural consequences in the future.
My educational tool “The Social Response Pyramid” reminds us that responses (behaviors) are usually coming from somewhere. They’re typically not completely random (and may not be intentional), but are often linked to a person’s current needs, understanding, feelings, etc. (or their “context”) and the strategies that they have available to them or are aware of at the moment. I call this, “Behavior as Communication.” The Pyramid helps us to evaluate the responses we’re seeing and hearing from others, in order to better identify what they might be missing (the “gaps”) and how to help them. (My Pyramid resources and DVD workshop, “Bridging the Gap” are all available through The Gray Center).
Other notable resources (all available at www.thegraycenter.org) include:
- Social Stories™ and Storymovies™
- Achieving Best Behavior
- Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments
- Making Sense of Children’s Thinking and Behavior
- No More Meltdowns
- Simple Strategies that Work
- Social Behavior Mapping
- Think Social!
- You Are a Social Detective
Best wishes to all the “detectives” reading this, who continue to evaluate and learn from others’ responses in order to equip them with strategies for being successful!