Last night, Genevieve and I released GreenDay, the Android app that we started developing and using in June of this year.
The Applied Behavior Analyst that we hired for help with Saria had suggested a positive reward system to reinforce good behaviors, accompanied by a negative reinforcement system for behaviors that we were trying to eliminate.
The two behaviors that we are targeting, and that most parents struggle with, are tantrums and not following parental directions. We use this application focusing on these two problem behaviors, where the children use these behaviors to get gratification, and not necessarily attention.
Every time the child does what you want them to, you give them a reward. You should be giving out at least 10 rewards a day. You also need to get the child’s attention when giving them the reward so that they know what behavior they’re being rewarded for. Regardless of how you feel about using money as a reward, we use money as a reward because it works. To get their attention, GreenDay makes a “cha ching” sound when we reward them with a token. The app then says their name, congratulates them, and tells them how much money they have earned so far. If you still have problems getting their attention, you can let them slide their icon to reward the token.
Negative reinforcement is where you don’t allow the child to do what they want to do, by taking away privileges. It was important that we stop thinking about punishment, and start moving in the direction that the kids can do what they want, and have fun, as long as they follow the rules. Fun and being able to do what they want is a privilege that is in full control of the parents. The children can do what they want, a lot of the time, because the parents let them.
We have two stages for negative reinforcement.
Yellow is where the child is on probation and needs to change their behavior around before they end up on red. They can’t earn tokens while on yellow but can still have attention and do what they want. We use a five minute yellow stage.
Red is where the child is not allowed to do what they want, and must apologize and restore the environment to get off of red. This looks a lot like the old fashioned “timeout”. We take away privileges, which acts as a negative reinforcement and consequence. At home, this is sitting on the couch or on a chair in the kitchen. If at a store, the child can face a wall or sit in the car with a parent.
There is no escape from red, and if the child tries to delay it by asking to go potty or gets up, you can pause the timer and remind them that the timer doesn’t run down until they return.
Do not give the child any attention while on red, if it can be avoided. When the red stage timer has run out, the child goes on yellow. They then must apologize and they have until the yellow timer runs out to restore the environment (pick up anything they threw, etc.) or they will end up back on red.
Following parental direction
1. Get the child’s attention.
2. Give the verbal direction.
3. Reward the child if they follow the direction. (The child may ask for a minute to do something else first.)
3. If the child has not followed the direction, point toward what they need to do.
4. Give the child 10 seconds of pointing before they go on yellow.
5. Reward them if they follow the direction within these 10 seconds.
6. Once on yellow, take away any toys and ensure that they can’t do what they want to do until they follow the direction (so they might as well follow the direction).
7. After the yellow timer has run out, if they still haven’t followed the direction, the child goes on red.
8. After the red timer runs out, have them apologize and they restore the environment by following the direction. Goto step 6 until they do.
It’s important to have your child practice the break behaviors when they’re not upset. We do this after lunch and supper, and offer a weekly bonus if they do all of the lunch ones and a second bonus if they do all of the supper ones. We track this on a whiteboard next to the kitchen table, but may add this to GreenDay.
1. Once the child is becoming upset, you suggest that they take a break. You can press the red timer button to have GreenDay suggest a break, which the child may respond to in a more positive way if they’re mad at the parent.
2. If they take a break, reward them.
3. If they need to keep taking breaks, reward them once they’re successfully calmed down.
4. If they don’t take a break, give the direction to take one (refer to “Following parental direction”).
5. If they throw a tantrum for over 30 seconds, they go in red.
6. After the red timer runs out, have them apologize and they restore the environment while they’re in yellow.
7. If they don’t restore the environment before the yellow timer runs out, put them back in red.
Many children throw a tantrum when they are frustrated because there is a problem. It is very important not to reinforce their tantrum behavior by resolving their problem while they’re throwing a tantrum. Tell them that the problem can be worked on after they have calmed down.
Don’t forget to stay calm yourself and model the behavior that you want.
Goals and rules
Make a list of rules that when broken will put the child immediately in yellow or red.
Make a list of goals that you will reward the child for accomplishing.
Competition as an incentive
Offer the yellow and red as consequences for the child’s behavior, and encourage them to have a green day.
If one child is in yellow or red, be very generous with tokens to the child that is still in green.
We give our children a bonus when they have a green day.
Although, we hope that this information will help you see how we use the GreenDay application to implement our behavior plan, we highly recommend hiring an ABA therapist to help you come up with a behavior plan and implement it.