behavior · parent training · self management · tantrums

Self Management

As behavior analysts we must develop all kinds of programs that will target specific behavior goals. Part of the planning process is to develop a program that will incorporate strategies to ensure the new behaviors targeted for change will not only occur in one place, but in many places, with many people, and with many things. The technical term for this is generalization. Therefore, when creating goals not only with clients, but even in our personal lives, we want behavior to generalize with other people, in several places, with different things.

When you see the term generalization, remember it means when a behavior can occur in other places, with other people, and with other things.

For example, if I decide to increase healthy eating behavior I may contact a nutritionist. If part of the nutritionists program is to take me to Trader Joe’s every week and teach me to identify healthy food choices, there should be a program in place that will help me to identify healthy foods when I am at different grocery stores, shopping with different people, with different food choices in different packaging, and without the assistance of the nutritionist.

What’s in review?

This weeks research review will discuss targeting behavior change that will generalize to other settings that are different than the one in which it was taught, similar to the above example. The article I chose for review specifically targets parents as the behavior change agents for their children with disruptive behaviors. This means that the parents will be able to assist their children without the use of a professional, once they have been trained, and show they are competent in the specified procedure.

What procedures were used and what were they targeting for change?

In the article titled “Training Parents in Behavioral Self-Management: An Analysis of Generalization and Maintenance” (Sanders and Glynn 1981), instructions and feedback, plus self-management training were used to train parents. Parents were trained to accurately implement specific procedures that were targeted to decrease their child’s problem behaviors in the home as well as in community settings. The study evaluates whether instructions and feedback provided by a professional, plus self-management are effective tools to assist in parents maintaining skills and using them effectively in other settings, generalizing outside the home and into the community.

Who participated?

There were five families each consisting of two parents and at least one pre school aged child exhibiting challenging behaviors that were difficult for parents to manage. The children’s behaviors targeted for reduction were “high rates of disruptive, non-compliant, and demanding behaviors” (Sanders and Glynn, 1981, p. 224).

What methods were used to train parents, and where were they used?

  1. Instructions & Feedback
  2. Self-Management

1. A professional provided a list of instructions and feedback, training parents to provide:

Positive social attention: Parents were to avoid shouting, and aggressive behavior described as grabbing their child, and to remain calm while reprimanding their child.

Prompts: Cues provided by the parent, using verbal or manual responses to assist the child in the appropriate response. Verbal example: where do your toys go? Manual example: guiding child to conduct a task or to a time out location.

Instructions: Parent provided clear, specific, brief and consistent verbal instructions. Example: Remember to say please when asking for your toy.

Ignoring: Parents removed their attention from the child only when the child exhibited an undesirable response or behavior. (Ignoring is specific to the problem behavior, not the child).

Consequences: A consequence was delivered immediately following a specific appropriate or disruptive behavior, and was clearly delivered to the child.

*A consequence does not denote something bad, it is what follows the behavior.

  • Consequence following appropriate behavior = “good job”
  • Consequence following disruptive behavior = Parent calmly reprimanded child and gave child an example of an appropriate response.

 2.Self-Management Training focusing on parent’s behavior consisting of:

  1. Goal Selection
  2. Self-monitoring
  3. Planning and arranging home and community settings

How were these methods measured? (This section was added for industry professionals and may contain industry terminology)

Sessions were divided into intervals (sections of time) and if a disruptive behavior was exhibited during that time interval it was marked as occuring. A percentage was derived by adding the total number of intervals of behavior occurrence and dividing by the total number of intervals. (Partial Interval Recording Method).

Parents accuracy of the intervention for providing the above methods was measured.

Frequency of problem behavior occurring in various settings was recorded by the parent. For example, if behaviors of the child occurred in the home and community setting, parents put down a frequency (number/count of occurrences) of disruptive behavioral occurrences.

Self-Monitoring recording method:

  1. A form was used for parents to write on a card whether or not they implemented the treatment from the instructions and feedback intervention.
  2. Parents also used a self-monitoring form for self-management of marking down on a form when the child acted out and in what location, home or out in community, (See Table 1).

Results of Study

Both the instructions and feedback were shown to decrease the child’s disruptive behaviors as well as increase the parent’s ability to implement instructional responses that increase  appropriate responses of their children. Adding in the self-management system enhanced the results across all 5 families, showing an increase in parent’s responses as well as decreases in child’s disruptive behaviors.


This study examines the effects of enhancing a treatment program by using self-management system with parents. When parents are outside the home, in the community, there are a lot of distractions and it can be difficult for parents to identify when it may be an appropriate time to assist in decreasing a child’s problem behavior. As a parent you can write down strategies and visual cues that can assist you in handling a situation in settings that are more distracting to assist you in what to do when problem behaviors arise.


Sometimes going to the grocery store can be a challenging task for a parent with a child who is asking for items that are not on the list of things to buy. When denying access to these items,  a parent might be faced with some challenging problem behaviors in the store. Identifying behaviors before hand and setting up a plan can be a great ally. Furthermore, creating a chart or list that provides a sequence of prompts on what to say and do when the child acts out can serve as a great self-management tool to assist you in following through with the plan.

Table 1: Example of a self-management list for parent to help them follow through.

Steps                             Procedures                                  Parent Follow Through (mark a check)

1. Prompt child before store on what we are buying and how to behave in store, and possibly agree on an earned item when shopping is complete and child has good behavior. (10 minutes tv time).             ✔ (example)
2. Have child check off items on list to keep them busy and helpful
3. Provide verbal praise to child for helping, “great job helping”.
4. If problem behavior occurs, gain child’s attention and describe to the child the appropriate behavior at store.
5. If behavior stops provide a verbal praise such as great job I like how you are calm and quiet.
6. If problem behavior continues provide another instruction such as we will now leave the store and you will not earn your tv time.

*The principles and procedures for the above example do not ensure treatment effectiveness as no direct observation, assessment, or  implementation by a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) has taken place, nor do they enter BCBA Behavior Buzz Blogger and public into a binding contract. The procedures are strategies used in the field of applied behavior analysis, and are only offered as strategies and examples for analysis, articulation and an understanding of evidence based practices and procedures. Please reference article citation for further analysis.


Sanders, M., & Glynn, T. (1981). Training parents in behavioral self-management: An analysis of generalization and management. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 14(3), 223-237. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1981.14-223

Sarah Conklin, MS, BCBA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s