I have chosen to think about using Applied Behavior Analysis to a job I’ve done in the past: babysitting.
Generally, I have been lucky in that the children I have looked after are sweet and well behaved. One time I was asked to babysit a brother and sister aged around ten and I had no reason to think they would be any different.
I was wrong... Everything was fine until I mentioned they would need to go to bed soon. The sister started getting all her toys out and trying to get a reaction out of me. My instinct in these situations is to just flat out ignore children trying to get attention by misbehaving- a use of extinction perhaps, where their behaviour is not being reinforced at all. However, this technique is more useful for longer interventions (e.g. Hart et al, 1964), so I realise now trying “punishment” techniques may have been more useful.
Reprimanding the sister in this situation would not have worked because it would simply give her more attention and hence act as a positive reinforcer. Time out was also not viable because I was trying to get her to go to her room anyway. I now believe the “response cost” method would have been the most effective, as this technique has been found to be particularly useful when working with children (e.g. Falcomata et al, 2004; Keeney et al, 2000).
As one possible way of using response cost: we were playing short games on their console so I was giving the children the choice of which game to play next. If I gave them enough warning that they would need to go to bed soon, there is still the opportunity to take the privilege away if they start misbehaving. So, a couple of games before they need to go to bed I would tell them it would be time soon, and if they started playing up then I could stop allowing them to choose the next game. I know this is only a small change, but I think it would be interesting to see if that would make any difference at all.
Falcomata, T. S., Roane, H. S., Hovanetz, A. N., Kettering, T. L., & Keeney, K. M. (2004). An evaluation of response cost in the treatment of inappropriate vocalizations maintained by automatic reinforcement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37, 83-87.
Hart, B. M., Allen, K. E., Buell, J. S., Harris, F. R., & Wolf, M. M. (1964). Effects of social reinforcement on operant crying. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1, 145-153.
Keeney, K. M., Fisher, W. W., Adelinis, J. D., & Wilder, D. A. (2000). The effect of response cost in the treatment of aberrant behaviour maintained by negative reinforcement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 255-258.