Applied behavior analysis (ABA) plays a vital role in helping children overcome behavioral disorders and issues concerning communication and daily living skills. However, what happens when children go home after those sessions matters as well. Children need opportunities to extend what they learn in ABA sessions into their everyday lives. For this reason, parents play a critical part in a child’s treatment and can benefit greatly from behavioral parent training. By effectively training parents to consistently reinforce the skills children learn during ABA sessions, therapists give the children the best chance to succeed.
Structuring behavioral parent training to empower parents takes expertise. Pursuing an online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis can equip graduates with the tools they need to deliver effective treatment to children and guide parents in its reinforcement.
Why Parent Training Matters
Parents who know how to implement behaviorally-focused therapeutic strategies can help children with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) improve their adaptive behaviors. Teaching parents about how concepts of motivation and reinforcement influence behavior allows them to apply techniques that can improve a child’s behavior through many activities, from taking a bath to eating dinner.
When children ignore instructions, regularly talk back, or respond with tantrums, tension and stress build that can hurt the parent-child relationship. However, with bolstered skills in managing difficult behaviors, parents can both lower their frustration and help their children change their behaviors in meaningful ways. These types of positive behavioral changes reduce problems at home and school. They may also improve a child’s ability to form friendships and develop into a healthy adult.
Behavioral parent training can improve parents’ understanding of behavioral strategies in several ways. First, it expands parents’ overall understanding of their child’s behavioral issues. They can learn about:
- Symptoms and causes
- Assessments and treatments
- Strategies for supporting children at home and school
By understanding what’s causing a child’s challenging behavior, parents can choose the best interventions to address the behavior. This often involves identifying a child’s motivations for engaging in these behaviors, and then choosing an intervention that meets the same need.
Additionally, behavioral parent training teaches families strategies and provides guidance about creating rules and routines, praising behavior, and using reward systems.
Behavioral Parent Training Tips
Learning new parenting strategies takes time and patience. However, by following key tips parents can make the most out of ABA techniques.
Set Clear Goals
With guidance from applied behavior analysts, parents can set both long- and short-term goals for their children. Guidance can include discussing issues parents want to tackle, asking questions, or offering surveys that help parents pinpoint their primary goals. Applied behavior analysts can then help parents identify steps to achieve those goals. For example, if parents set a goal for a child to get dressed independently, a behavior therapist may help break the larger goal into smaller ones, such as selecting clothing and closing buttons. Goals should take into consideration what is attainable and which behavioral changes will make the most significant and meaningful impact in children’s and parents’ lives.
Identifying Problems and Replacement Behaviors
Parents dealing with problematic behaviors often feel frazzled. Their child’s challenging behaviors may feel overwhelming, causing parents to want to fix everything all at once. However, identifying the top challenges and prioritizing which behaviors to deal with first improves the chances of successfully managing them.
After identifying behaviors that need changing, parents need alternative behaviors for their children that serve the same purpose as the problematic behavior. These replacements allow children to meet their needs in more functional and acceptable ways. Applied behavior analysts can help parents find the most effective replacement behaviors.
Focus on Positive Behaviors
When parents pay attention to a behavior, they’ll likely see more of it; for example, by focusing on children when they throw toys, parents may unwittingly provoke more of that behavior. If a child is engaging in behaviors for attention, ignoring problematic behaviors can reduce them. Sometimes parents can’t ignore challenging behaviors for safety or other reasons. In these cases, they can limit the attention they give to children when they engage in nonproductive behavior. Ideally however, parents should give children the most attention when they’re engaged in behaviors that the parents want to see more of.
Behavioral parent training aims to not only change a child’s behaviors but also shape parental behavior. Helping parents apply what they’ve learned takes practice. During role-playing, parents practice interventions on the behavior therapist; the therapist offers support and feedback along the way. Role-playing offers important opportunities for parents to test their new skills.
Tips for Finding an Applied Behavior Analyst
Along with using behavioral training techniques, parents should find an applied behavior analyst who aligns with their child’s specific therapeutic needs. When searching for an applied behavior analyst, parents should consider the following tips:
- Make sure that applied behavior analysts are qualified by visiting the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® website or by checking their state license to practice behavior analysis (if applicable).
- Seek a behavior therapist who specializes in a specific behavior or age group.
- Ask relevant questions about the behavior therapist’s intervention methods and the research that supports them
How Applied Behavior Analysts Assist in Parent Training
Applied behavior analysts possess core competencies that play an essential role in building robust relationships with parents. With these skills, applied behavior analysts guide parents on how to effectively use parent training techniques. A strong rapport between parents and behavior therapists leads to more effective behavioral parent training outcomes. Consider how the skills in the following sections cultivate successful relationships between applied behavior analysts and parents.
Every child is different, and each case requires careful analysis and a unique approach. An applied behavior analyst’s ability to closely evaluate individual needs, such as a child’s level of functioning and the family’s access to resources, is key to demonstrating that a therapist isn’t taking a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, to devise manageable ways for parents to collect information about their child’s behavior—an important step in identifying intervention methods—applied behavior analysts must effectively analyze a parent’s circumstances. Successful interventions rely on superior analytical skills. They also build confidence and trust between parents and therapists.
The ability to communicate well, break down terminology, and make the concepts behind ABA therapy clear is crucial to forging trust and understanding between parents and behavior therapists. From goal setting to role-playing, behavior therapists collaborate with parents, which requires active communication. Behavior therapists can’t simply take over and work independent of parental feedback. They must consult with parents throughout the process. Communication ensures that behavior therapists meet families’ needs at the highest level.
Parents managing their child’s behavioral disorder face many frustrations and challenges. They need empathic, compassionate behavior therapists. They also need behavior therapists who can build a rapport with parents by listening and offering the sense that they’re genuinely invested in the family’s success.
Learn the Skills for a Career in Applied Behavior Analysis
Behavioral parent training is integral to ABA therapy’s success. By teaching parents how to help their children change their behaviors, applied behavior analysts can transform families’ lives. Discover how Regic College’s online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares graduates to empower families and overcome the challenges of behavior disorders.