030 – Chapter 4, Part 9

Step 1: Specify Your Expectations to Your Child (continued) 

Write Well-worded Success Statements (continued)

While generally the same in overall structure, target behaviors for children younger than reading age tend to look somewhat different. To highlight some differences, I have included a sample listing for a five-year-old girl in the box.

2011-04-12 - 01 - Sample target behaviors - SS_resize

There are a several specific aspects of this younger child’s list to consider:

  1. This list includes five items, as many as can be expected to work well for a five-year-old child. As with Johnny’s list, this one contains more items than a typical family might choose to include but they are all shown to illustrate the variety of items that could be included.
  2. One obvious difference in this listing is that the child earns “tokens” instead of “credits,” which provides the child a more concrete indication of success than numbers on a chart, not very meaningful to one so young.
  3. Another difference is evident in that only one or two tokens are offered since younger children tend not to comprehend bigger numbers.
  4. Item 3 indicates, in parentheses, that Sally can earn a token for each meal. As with Johnny’s school items, this behavior is counted as only one item even though it likely occurs at least three times during the day. This can be done because it is not particularly more challenging to the child and it does not add much to the parents’ tasks of monitoring the program.
  5. Item 5 represents a departure from all the other illustrations in that it does not, in itself, identify a specific behavior. This item further illustrates how the program can be tweaked to meet specific family’s needs. In this case, it actually amounts to a kind of bonus – or miscellaneous – category that might be included by parents with a young child whose undesirable behaviors show up in enough different circumstances to make it difficult to define success behaviors ahead of time. It allows each parent to specify on the spot an instance in which the child can succeed by cheerfully doing what is assigned to her.

It must be stressed that such an item places considerable demand on the parents. Each time they give the child a special assignment they must clearly and ahead of time present realistic expectations in positive terms, all the while also maintaining their usual monitoring. As a result, such an addition to a program should be used sparingly.

Because establishing clear expectations for children can sometimes become more complicated, in the next chapter you will find responses to several questions about the process posed by parents with whom I worked.


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