Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is most notably used in the treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. But in truth, ALL children experience problem behaviors at some point in their lives - from the “terrible twos” to the rebellious teen years. This blog is designed to provide an overview of ABA and how it can be a useful tool for typically developing children, teenagers, and even your husband;)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Escape-Driven Behaviors - Why?

All to often we find ourselves caught up in trying to get rid of behaviors without thinking about the whys.  Why does my child want my attention?  Why does my child want to escape this activity? 

Let's take homework, for example:
Antecedent:  "Time to do homework"
Behavior: "No, I don't want to"
Before applying a consequence, assess why the child doesn't want to do the homework.  Does the child simply want to continue playing with toys?  Then the consequence must be to put away the toys and do the homework.  BUT, maybe the homework is too much or too hard.  Of course, the consequence must still be to complete the homework, but maybe you provide help.  In this case, what you may need to do is teach your child to ask for help when something is too hard instead of refusing to do the activity and engaging in problem behaviors to avoid it. 

There are lots of things our kids want to escape:  homework, chores, the grocery cart, crowded areas, and the list goes on.  When we ask ourselves "why?" then we are able to take some antecedent steps (before the behavior happens) to help avoid those problem behaviors in the first place.  For example, we can make activities more pleasant.  Instead of 20 items on the homework list, maybe they do 10 items then they have a chance to play.  Instead of doing the dishes alone, maybe you can do them together.  And for that cold, metal, boring shopping cart maybe you could bring some toys along to the grocery store (and a cushion to sit on).

The next time your child engages in a problem behavior the first step is to ask why is the child engaging in the behavior (to escape, to gain attention, to get access to a toy/food, etc.)  and then why does the child want to escape, gain attention, etc? 


  1. Hi Heather! Thanks for leaving the comment on the Tots2Tweens Facebook page...Check out this section of our site... if you're interested in contributing, I'd love to see some articles and expertise for our can email me at dani[dot]gurrie[at]tots2tweens[dot]com


  2. Really excited to see my article soon:D Thanks again!