The Easy Way vs. The Hard Way

I will often explain ABA to new clients/families by saying ABA therapy isn’t easy to do, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. What I am very careful not to say is that ABA isn’t hard.
It is hard.
It can be very hard.

Many strategies and techniques we use as ABA professionals have taken us graduate level coursework, years of experience, and a super thick skin to implement correctly. The average busy and multitasking parent isn’t quite ready for what ABA can fully entail, and the changes that will be necessary for their whole household.

When I say ABA doesn’t have to be difficult, I mean that an experienced and quality BCBA/Consultant/Supervisor will have the skills to present complicated concepts to a parent or teacher in a lively way, thoroughly define and explain strategies, and reinforce effort to promote learning. The right professional should make you feel supported and encouraged, and when they need to correct or modify your behavior they do so tactfully with a great deal of patience.

When I say ABA isn’t easy, I mean just that. ABA is often the opposite of “taking the easy road”. Many times as you are on the ABA therapy journey you will have the choice to do what feels easy or “right” or to do what feels difficult or “wrong”.
As a professional I face that same choice.  Am I going to roll up my sleeves and do the work necessary to help my client be successful, or am I going to shrug and say “Well, that’s close enough”.

I think much of discipline or behavior change in general requires changing your mind about what you as the parent or teacher are capable of, what the child is capable of, what behaviors you are willing to accept, and what behaviors you are NOT willing to accept. What can initially seem like a fairly easy way out of a tricky behavioral situation, can cost you much more effort, pain, or frustration in the long run.  It’s similar to eating fast food: in the moment it’s cheap, quick, and easy. But over time, it has an impact on your health and your waistline.

So the next time you are facing behavioral challenges in your child and have various choices of how to respond running through your head, pay attention to the ones that seem the most challenging, time consuming, or difficult. Those choices are likely what an ABA professional would recommend you do. 

Here are a few examples I see fairly often, of being faced with that Hard or Easy Choice.

Child is screaming at you that they hate you and calling you names
Yell back at the child  that they can’t talk to you that way
Once the child is calm, talk to them about why they feel that way and LISTEN to what they say
Child is refusing to stay seated at the dinner table
Promise the child they can have the Ipad for the rest of the night if they will come back and sit down
Get up and bring the child back to the dinner table every single time they leave. Offer praise and encouragement when they stay in their chair. Redirect them with conversation, songs, or by reading a book to them so they are motivated to sit
On a long car trip, the child is engaging in repetitive “junk” talk about boobs and butts
Crank the radio up super loud to drown out the “junk” talk
Begin engaging in fun talk and jokes with other people in the car. Remind the child you are happy to talk to them when they are done with the "junk" talk
At a family function your toddler begins to cry and tantrum. You aren’t sure how best to respond, but people are beginning to stare.
Quickly grab your child and leave the family function
Wait, and do not attend to the behavior. If you don’t know how to respond then do nothing. Quietly wait for calm, as you decide how best to intervene. Is the child hot? Tired? Ill? Uncomfortable? Why are they upset, and what might they need?

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