one of the most simple interventions that can be put in place to decrease challenging behavior in both school and home settings is the “pause button.” you see, all behavior serves a function. when the function of a child’s not-so-delightful behavior is avoidance of a task or demand, a grown-up may see a high rate of whining, crying, flopping, or tantrums when he gives the child a non-preferred task to complete.
these not-so-delightful behaviors persist because they are effective. while the child may still end up eventually having to clean up toys, the child who is whining has probably bought herself at least a little time. even just a minute of avoidance can reinforce the whining behavior and thereby increase the future probability of whining in the future! yikes!
so what to do? offer candy? threaten time out? ignore? well every child is different but one thing worthy of your consideration is to experiment with a pause button. the goal is to replace the whining with a polite request. for example, the grown-up says, “it is time to clean up!” in reply the child might tap a picture of a pause button and say, “may I have a pause?” the grown-up wants the child to get started right away but realizes a polite request for a pause is much better than whining so he honors the child’s request. he says, “what a polite way to ask. sure you may take a pause for a minute and then we will get started!”
the beauty of replacing a not-so-delightful behavior with a FUNCTIONALLY EQUIVALENT alternative behavior (i.e. both result in the outcome of avoiding work for a minute) is that it has a good chance of working. and once the polite request for a pause is well-established in a child’s repertoire, the grown-up can slowly begin shaping up shorter or fewer pauses. (overuse at the beginning is a good sign so don’t be alarmed!)
if you are inspired to experiment with a pause button in your setting, please don’t hesitate to share your questions and experiences!