Suggestions on Handling Escape Maintained Behaviors

“Every day after school, I ask my 6 year old to do his homework and it turns into an epic battle because he wants to escape the task. It eventually results in tears.” – Mother of a 6 year old

Have you seen that Core math business? I think I would be crying too but I am also horrible at math, soooo?!? lol! However, I think this mama’s tears are the result of what I like to call ‘escape maintained’ behaviors. Homework time can be very challenging for a lot of kids; especially after spending an entire day at school!

So, what can YOU do at home to help make things go a little smoother during homework time? But in all honestly, you can adapt these strategies to a lot of different challenging behaviors as well. Here are some ideas…

Earn reinforcement along the way…

One suggestion that I like to give is to allow your little cutie to earn reinforcement along the way. This helps to increase motivation for the kids to complete their work. Maybe use gummy words, M&M’s or any other favorite snack to help move them along in a reinforcing manner.

Break it up!

Who says you need to complete all of your work in one sitting. Break it up into smaller, more obtainable pieces. You could even present a thing called Premack principle.

Example- First complete 5 math problems, then you can go watch one minute of YouTube. After one minute of screen time, it is back to completing the homework! Wah-lah… Homework is done :).

Change how the task is done

Another suggestion- Change how the homework needs to be completed! Make it fun! Does the homework need to be done on paper? Could it be completed using shaving cream? Can you do it on the sliding glass door using dry erase markers? Providing variety or making the activity more reinforcing could help to make the activity more desirable. Making the activity more preferred may also help to complete the activity!

Increase Functionality

Okay, I get it! Homework may seem extremely redundant and sometimes, useless! By providing functionality to the task, it may add relevance to your child. If you are working on math skills, provide context to it! Tell your child WHY it is useful. Throw it into a word problem and use their friends names (haha, who knew a word problem REALLY would be functional).

If they are practicing their spelling words, see if you can find that spelling word in their environment (Hello food pantry, don’t fail me now!). If you are working on science, see if you can actually conduct an experiment! Whatever you are working on, make it functional so they can find its relevance!

Decrease amount of time in aversive task

Although this may seem counterintuitive, this can be very helpful in the long run. If homework time is an extremely challenging time in your home, start slow. Each day, build up the amount of time you are working on homework. As you build time, greatly reinforce your little cutie!

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