Have you ever wondered why your child engages in outbursts or other undesirable behaviors? When you ask your child to make their bed, do they begin crying and whining? When a snack is on the top shelf of the pantry, do they start screaming for the snack? All of these undesirable behaviors are occurring because they have learned to communicate their wants and needs in this way.
Everything we do has an antecedent, a behavior, and a consequence (ABC).
- Antecedent: What happens right before a behavior occurs (you ask your child to make their bed).
- B ehavior:What your child does (crying, whining, etc.).
- Consequence: What follows the behavior (following the crying and whining, you make their bed for them).
By being aware of the ABC’s, we can hypothesize why our child is acting the way that they do. This is known as the function of behavior. There are four functions of behavior and there’s an easy acronym to help you remember: SEAT.
- Sensory: They do it simply because it feels good
- Escape: They are attempting to get away from an undesired activity or interaction
- Attention: They act out in hopes of obtaining social attention or interactions from others
- Tangible: They want to obtain an item that is currently unavailable to them
Once we understand and can identify the function of a behavior, we can take appropriate action to address it. If your child is engaging in an outburst to escape making their bed, do not allow them to escape making it. If they are engaging in screaming because they want a snack from the pantry, require them to ask for the snack appropriately.
When we do not reinforce their inappropriate behavior, the chances of that behavior continuing to occur in the future decreases. By understanding what our children are attempting to communicate through undesirable behavior, we can teach them appropriate replacement behavior to lead to a more successful and thriving future.