— Podcast

#46: Understanding the ABCs of Behavior

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The ABCs of Behavior is a powerful tool in helping understand behavior and why it happens. Understanding what causes challenging behavior and what to do once it begins gives parents a better way to handle problems. This in turn strengthens the relationship we have with our child. It also teaches them how to successfully navigate the world around them without our help.

The ABCs of Behavior is an acronym. It stands for Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence.

Antecedent means what happened before the behavior. It requires us looking at what happened 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or even an hour or two beforehand. The goal with the antecedent is to understand what the catalyst was for the behavior. Did they get in trouble at school? Did they miss a nap or snack? Did they break a favorite toy? Did someone say something mean to them? When we understand what caused the behavior, we can give them tools to either prevent or better handle the problem when it or something similar reoccurs.

Behavior is what is happening. Behavior could mean sulking, throwing things, yelling, or being angry. Behavior is what we want to prevent, change, or fix. Addressing behavior at this stage is less effective than addressing it before it becomes a problem.

Consequence is what happens after the behavior. What consequence(s) or reward(s) did they receive? We may be reinforcing negative behaviors by giving a reward instead of a consequence. If we reward our child with a sucker after a tantrum, we reinforce that throwing a tantrum is the way to get a sucker. Consequences should match the behavior and should teach and not punish a child.

The ABCs of Behavior is one of the skills of the Teaching-Family Model. The Teaching-Family Model is one of the most highly researched evidence-based treatment methods in the world.  It has been used since the 1960s by practitioners all over the world because it works!

For more information about the ABCs of Behavior and the rest of the behavior skills of the Teaching-Family Model visit: https://www.smarterparenting.com/skills/the-abcs-of-behavior/

For full show notes and transcript visit: https://www.smarterparenting.com/adhd-parenting-podcast/

Episode Transcript

This is episode 46. Let’s get started.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your Parenting Coach Siope Kinikini.

Hello, my friends. How is everybody? I hope everybody’s doing fantastic. Today, I wanted to talk about an element of the Teaching-Family Model. In fact, I wanted to spend some time talking about the Teaching-Family Model and then talking about The ABC’s of Behavior.

So first off, let’s talk about the Teaching-Family Model and why it’s so important that we use this Model when we’re coaching a family. Now, I had mentioned before that my work initially was helping families that were in difficult situations, often referred by the court system because their child had misbehaved and they were involved with a probation officer. So after doing multiple interventions, they usually sent workers like me to do in-home work. So in-home work is home-based work where a worker actually will go into the home of a family and teach skills. The whole goal of that was to teach children and parents how to get along and also how to establish an environment where things were safe for both the family and for the child, where the child could be more obedient and compliant with the rules.

So my job was to go into these very difficult homes, often with years of misbehavior from a child, and then teach them skills so they could manage those behaviors and keep the children in-home. Not an easy task, right? I mean, it’s super not easy. However, using the Teaching-Family Model, we were able to keep families together because it provided a structure. It provided parents with some very specific skills on how to intervene with their children when they noticed misbehavior.

The Teaching-Family Model has its history back in the 1960s. I’ve covered this before in an earlier podcast, but I think it’s important to revisit it just so you can understand it a little bit more deeply. And because repetition is always fantastic for everybody, right? The Teaching-Family Model started in the 1960s, and it was a joint effort from the Institute of Mental Health. $20 million was put into this through universities to study behavior with families. What you will learn in understanding the Teaching-Family Model is that they were able to observe what worked well with children who struggled behaviorally in changing their behavior. They observed and they noticed, okay, these are certain things that seem to work across the board with multiple children, and so they started to provide steps and systems for those. The Teaching-Family Model was brought up from that and has been used for decades by different agencies and by professionals to help families and help children improved behaviors.

This has been used for a long time and in multiple situations. What I find fascinating about the Teaching-Family Model is that it initially started in a group home setting where there was a group home parents who were there interacting with children, replicating what a home would be like, and then observing them and seeing what worked and then testing it over, and over, and over again until they found these formulas that work, these specific skills that worked. They’ve been able to take that from group homes and they applied it to other areas, which is where I come in with home-based work. So instead of having a child that we’re working with in a group home, we were working with families actually inside their original home in teaching these very same skills to find success with these children. I will be honest, it was miraculous to see the changes that came about in observing families make these changes.

My work, actually, was to go in and use the Teaching-Family Model with these parents, teaching them very specific skills in order to help them manage the behaviors of their children. It was a great job. I loved it. I was able to go into homes where people were struggling financially, into very wealthy homes. I would be teaching the exact same skills to the parents, and parents were able to implement those, and we would see the same success, regardless of their economic status or even cultural status. I worked for families that were Hispanic, because I speak Spanish, and families that were African-American. I worked with a Caucasian families. I worked with all sorts of families, blended families, and these skills worked across the board in helping them.

Again, that’s a brief overview of the Teaching-Family Model. But just understand that the Teaching-Family Model has some very firm roots in research and in evidence-based interactions that have been observed over time. And because we’re able to replicate it, and it has been replicated in various agencies as well, that this is something that is gold. I mean, it really literally is a gold mine for parents to have, and here we are at Smarter Parenting offering it to you for free. Super amazing, right? The reason that we’re doing that, obviously, is because we care, and we want families to be happy. Our main objective is to help the families as much as possible.

This is all at your disposal. You’ll find skills that are on the Smarter Parenting website that deal with effective communication. It deals with how to make good decisions. It deals with preventing behaviors from happening. It deals with how to correct behaviors. And all of this as encompassed in establishing good relationships with the child. What more could you ask for? Seriously, what more could you. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.

We’re offering it to you on this platter for free, which I think is fantastic. So I really do have to give a shout-out to the people who sponsor Smarter Parenting and really help us do this. Because without their funding, without their support and their help, there is no way that we could do this for free. Shout-out to the Utah Youth Village, which we are a division of, and also to Alpine Academy, which is residential school for girls who struggle. Both of those are located here in Utah. Both are associated with the Utah Youth Village. Definitely have to give a shout-out to those guys for allowing us to share this to you for free.

I had mentioned earlier in this podcast that we would also talk about The ABC’s of Behavior. The reason that I wanted to talk about this concept of The ABC’s of Behaviors because is super important for parents to understand that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to a behavioral interruption that your child may have. The ABCs, that’s an acronym, A stands for antecedent, B stands for their behavior, and C stands for the consequence. Antecedent means something that happens before, B for the actual behavior that you are observing, and then C for what happens afterwards. What I find clever about this is that we are able to help parents identify what is going on before and what is going on after a certain specific behavior happens.

So for example, if a child is throwing a tantrum, a lot of times parents will approach the tantrum as, oh, they’re just throwing a tantrum. Now I have to address this. When we expand their view and help them understand that, hey, something happened before the tantrum, and we need to know what happened before the tantrum, and then we need to know what happens after the tantrum subsides. What is going on after that? 

Because both of those elements also allow us opportunities to teach to our children how to fix the behavior that lies right in the middle. Once the parents can understand what is happening before, then we can do some preventive things. While the behavior is happening, we can start to teach to correcting that behavior. Then if we need to, we can alter consequences to see part of that in order to shape it from not happening again in the future. So you see, there are three areas where we can interact and intercede in teaching a child how to manage a behavior rather than just focusing on the one behavior. Think how magical that is, right? That opens up a lot of options. A lot of options.

When I work with a family, usually what I do is I observe. And they can always tell me what the bad behavior is, what behavior they’re trying to fix. What I ask them is, “Okay, so we’re dealing with this behavior. What is happening five minutes before that behavior happens? What is happening and hour before the behavior happens?” So we go and we backtrack, and we’re able to figure out, okay, are things leading up to this behavior? What things are happening before? Is it later in the afternoon? Are they tired? Are they hungry? Are they irritated because they’re not getting their way in something else? Are they missing a favorite TV show? It could be anything. It really could be anything. But that antecedent actually helps us determine from there things that we can teach to in order to keep us from getting into the negative behavior.

I also ask them, “Okay, what is the consequence afterwards?” So after they behave that way, the negative way, does something happened that reinforces the idea that if I behave this way again that I will get what I want? Meaning, if a child throws a tantrum and a parent is like, “Well, here. Here’s a lollipop to calm you down,” is that a reinforcing consequence to the behavior that makes the child think, “Well, if I want a lollipop, all I got to do is misbehave”? So we address those, and we come up with strategies, what you can teach during the antecedent phase, what you can teach during the behavior phase, and what you can teach during the consequence phase to keep it from happening again.

Now, this is powerful. Think about how much power a parent has when they are able to choose specifically how to address a behavior rather than waiting for the behavior to happen. It really does open up a whole world of opportunity for parents to interact and intercede in their own way and in a more effective way. Because a lot of times, when a behavior is happening, it’s hard. It’s harder for the child to receive information, and receive feedback, and to be corrected. Lot of times we can fix it before the behavior happens and so the behavior never happens.

That is an overview of The ABC’s of Behavior and the power behind it. But each of the skills that you will find on the Smarter Parenting website, which come from the Teaching-Family Model. Google it. Look it up. Jump on the Smarter Parenting website, read more about it, the skills, all of them are in-depth that way. I mean, there’s just so much information compact into the way that we interact with our children and the things that we teach them, which is why I’m super excited to keep sharing this information with you. Because I think it would be so monumental if all parents have it available to them that they could just pull it out and use what they think they need to use and know what to do whenever something happens. I mean, how great would that be, right? Something happens, a parent knows exactly what to do. That’s our goal, is in sharing this message, and sharing it with you, and empowering you to be able to be the best parent that you can be and also helping your child be the best person that they can be. That’s our goal.

That’s it for me for this week. I just wanted to go ahead and share that about the Teaching-Family Model and about The ABC’s of Behavior and give you an idea of the depth of the skills that are available on the Smarter Parenting website and also through coaching. We are here to walk you through this. We’re here to guide you through this process, so set up a time to be coached. You can sign up for a coaching session on the Smarter Parenting website. There is a free 15-minute coaching session that is available that we will go through and we can really talk about the skills that you will need in order to intercede and intervene. So when you sign up for the coaching session, what you’re going to find is you’ll sign up. You’ll receive a questionnaire so we can get some basic information so we can maximize what we talk about during the 15-minutes. And then if you continually need coaching, we are here for you. Coaching helps keep us alive and functioning.

Super grateful that we’re able to share this, and this is it for me. This is all I have to share with you from this week. Hopefully, you have a wonderful week, and I will talk to you soon. All right. Thanks. Bye.

The Teaching-Family Model

Our Teaching-Family Model Family

The Teaching-Family Association

Behavior skill: The ABC’s of Behavior

Behavior skills of the Teaching-Family Model

Free 15-minute ADHD coaching mini-session


Utah Youth Village

Alpine Academy

Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.