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;)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Warnings: Not a Consequence for Misbehavior

I recently read this blog article and it got me thinking...

As parents (and teachers), we give warnings ALL DAY LONG!  We warn our children "If you do that, then you're going to be in big trouble!"  "This is the last time I'm going to tell you!"  There is nothing wrong with gentle reminders ("Remember, if you hit your brother again you will have to put that toy away" or better yet "Remember to keep your hands to yourself and you can play with the spiderman toy"); however, we must be consistent with consequences.  Meaning, we must actually follow-through with what we say.  A warning cannot continue to be followed by more warnings.  A warning only works by it's association with consequences.  If a warning is only associated with further warnings, our children will have no reason to change their behavior. 

It seems our reasoning behind so many warnings is likely avoidance of tantrums that occur when we do follow-through with consequences.  Or, on occasion, we don't know what consequence to apply so we just keep hoping that the warning will do the trick.  The problem with this logic is that warnings followed by warnings don't change behavior.  The behavior you are warning against continues to occur until you apply a consequence.  And while I admit that applying consequences may lead to tantrums, in the end the tantrums will decrease because the warning will have worked (after being consistently paired with actual consequences).  Don't forget the positive consequences as well.  When your children respond appropriately to warnings such as "Remember to keep your hands to yourself and you can play with the Spiderman toy" then please remember Spiderman!

As I've said before, ABA is hard work up front but well worth the results in the end!


  1. Your post is right on the nose! Sometimes, I think we are hoping our kids will just do what we're asking and then we won't have to follow through with the 'threat'...we just keep on threatening, cause it's easier (at the moment) then action! But in the long run, it's like you is actually easier when we follow through! Visiting from voiceBoks!

  2. Oh, don't I know it! I live it everyday as a mommy and as a preschool teacher. Thanks for your visit and comment. And thanks to VoiceBoks:)