Methods to Self Monitor Behavior to Make Meaningful Change

November 9, 2015

Oftentimes children may engage in certain problem behaviors which may be harmful to themselves or bothersome to others. These behaviors may be as simple as tapping a pencil loudly in school or as serious as harmful eating habits. One method to assist adolescents in becoming cognizant of harmful or bothersome habits is to learn how to self-monitor and self-correct.

  1. The first step in using self-monitoring is to identify when the behavior is most likely to occur. It may happen in specific situations, such as when in an uncomfortable situation. Conversely, it may occur throughout the day, such as when eating unhealthy meals regularly. It may be helpful to have a notebook available to record when the behavior occurs, what triggered the behavior, and what was the result of engaging in the behavior. There are also certain apps available to help with self-monitoring. For example, some apps can be used for tracking exercise routines, eating habits, expenses, and much more. Ultimately, the method chosen to record data should be easy to use and readily available.
  2. Next, children must notice the effect these problem behaviors have on them and those around them. Oftentimes they engage in behaviors without realizing they may be affecting others. For instance, tapping a pencil on the desk during a test or a meeting may disturb others. Another example would be talking to themselves while working in a quiet area such as a library. If they are aware that their behaviors are negatively impacting them or others around them, they may be more motivated to address them and choose other alternatives.
  3. Once they are aware of the problem behaviors that need to be addressed and when and where they are occurring, they can begin to instruct themselves to refrain from doing them. Self-prompts, such as “relax” or “take a deep breath” would be appropriate for instances when nail biting or tapping a pencil loudly in an inappropriate situation. It will also be helpful to have a replacement behavior to prevent engaging in the unwanted behavior at a later time. For instance, if they engage in nail biting, they may instead fold their hands to make nail biting unavailable. If targeting poor eating habits, instead of refraining from eating chips, they may seek out healthier alternatives, such as veggie chips or baked varieties of preferred snacks.
  4. Continue to collect data when engaging in the appropriate alternative behaviors. Note if the replacement behaviors have the same effect as the problem behavior we are attempting to reduce. Through data collection we can analyze how often the unwanted behaviors are occurring and how often the replacement behaviors are occurring. If there is no significant decrease in the unwanted behavior and increase in the replacement behavior, changes should be made. Perhaps other alternative behaviors should be chosen or some modifications should be made in the environment. One example might be using visual prompts, such as a sign on the wall as a reminder to exercise daily or engage in deep breathing when necessary.
  5. Always remember to reward engaging in the chosen appropriate behaviors. If they have exercised six days a week, make the seventh day one of rest and relaxation. There should always be a positive consequence for engaging in appropriate behaviors, especially if it is a difficult task to do.

 If you are interested in teaching your child how to use self-monitoring to encourage more appropriate behaviors, please reach out to one of our analysts at BCOTB to set up a consultation.

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