WHY SHOULD THEY OBEY?
I agree that it is important that people have their own minds, and don’t like a sheep just blindly follow what someone else tells them to do. It is equally important that we respect authority and learn to obey rules and regulations. Anarchy and chaos will result if we do not. Learning cannot take place without compliance. On home programs, so much precious time and energy is wasted when a child does not consistently listen and obey when given an instruction. Sometimes, it is a matter of life and death, for example if a child does not comply when you shout ‘Stop!’ as they run towards a busy road, may get run over.
IF YOU AIM AT NOTHING YOU ARE SURE TO HIT IT!
Define your objective clearly. For example for John to immediately obey any instruction given by his tutor, teacher and parents.
WHERE DO I START?
Look for a behaviour that is easy that they already do regularly, and target that. For example, ‘Look, John!!’ and when he looks, because he is curious, reinforce him immediately and say ‘good looking’. Intersperse this with the instructions ‘Look!’ and ‘John’.
Write out instructions for things that John is extremely likely to comply with during the day (these are called high-p requests) e.g. ‘eat this sweet’ ‘look at this’ ‘go play your game’- as level one instructions. For level two instructions write out neutral instructions ‘come here’ ‘hold this’ ‘open it’ and level three are instructions that are easy to follow ‘touch your nose’ ‘put this on the table’ ‘knock on the door’. Finally level four involves instructions John is unlikely to perform (these are called low-p requests) like ‘make your bed’ ‘come do some work’ ‘switch off the TV’. For each level provide at least 10 opportunities per day for them to comply and make the reinforcers HUGE and immediate and contingent. Only when a level is completely mastered and he is complying 100% of the time do you move to the next level.
‘ALMOST’ IS GOOD ENOUGH TO START
Reinforce any approximations and slowly expect more, reinforcing better responses each time. For example when you say ‘Look, John’ even if he gives you half a glance, reinforce it and next time reinforce it if he looks for two seconds and later when he maintains your eye contact for longer than 4 seconds.
You may need to prompt compliance to start, for example have the reinforcer in sight so that they realise it signals the possibility of reinforcement if they comply. Don’t worry, this is offering an incentive, not bribery as some have mistakenly called it. Bribery is when a desired item is given BEFORE the behaviour. When an ‘if you....then....’ contingency is set up this is an incentive. You may initially apply any prompt you see fit that will make the completion of the request as easy as possible, for example ‘put your empty packet in the bin’ while handing them the packet and moving the bin closer to them. Don’t forget to fade all your prompts to give them the opportunity to learn to comply without a prompt.
CATCH THEM BEING ‘GOOD’
Never take desired behaviour for granted- try to at least verbally praise desired behaviours as often as possible. For example, when a child is older and consistently brushing their teeth before bed, occassionally say ‘well done for always brushing your teeth’, as you tuck them in their bed.
HIGH-P REQUEST SEQUENCE
This is an intervention to help with increasing the probability of compliance with a student who has a history of escape or avoidant behaviour when asked to do a difficult task.The high -p sequence is done by getting the student to complete three to five short tasks that they have a history of compliance, followed by the target task that is difficult. For example deliver the instructions ‘Touch your nose’ ‘Excellent, now put this on the table’ ‘Well done, now put the yellow square next to the red circle’. This intervention has been called many things including ‘interspersed requests’, ‘pretask requests’ and ‘behavioural momentum’. Currently most behaviour analysts call it high-p request sequence.