Do the ABA 3-Step


Have you ever found yourself having to repeat the same direction over and over before it is followed? As busy parents, it is easy to give a direction to our child and walk away to take care of something else only to come back later to find that the direction was not followed. If this sounds familiar, then you may find it beneficial to refocus on the Contingency Key by following these three steps.

1-Plan ahead. 2-Say what you mean. 3-Do what you say.

Step 1, Planning Ahead is all about considering the outcomes you want from your child. This thinking, or planning, happens before you give a direction or expectation. Consider what you need your child to do. Is your child able, willing, and aware of how to complete the direction? Think about what will happen if your child follows directions AND what will happen if your child does not follow directions.

Ideally, from your child’s point of view, there should be more benefits in following directions and little-to-no benefit in not following directions. If there are more benefits in not following directions (again from the child’s perspective) then you will need to add more positive consequences for following directions to steer behaviors toward the outcomes you want.

Step 2, Say What You Mean builds off of the plan you mapped out. To help you be successful in giving your child a directive that will result in the desired outcome, you want to:

• Be reasonable in your demands and directions.

• Use a clear and neutral voice tone.

• Use a few simple and direct words.

• Measure your words and let your words carry the weight of all that is important.

• Always only say what you are able and willing to actually do.

How you deliver directions is also important. Cultivate a very specific tone, volume, and cadence (think firm but calm) that your child will recognize as the Contingency voice. This should be the voice you use that will signal for your child:

1. The only or most important thing right now is to follow directions.

2. There will clearly be more positive consequences for following the directions.

Once you Say What You Mean, then it’s time for Step 3, Do What You Say. Although the doing may seem like the part with the most work, actually you have already done the hard part. You’ve thought through the process and told your child what you intend to do. Now, all that is left is for you to follow your own words.

Do What You Say requires that you give your time and attention to watching your child’s behaviors to determine whether your child followed your directions so that you can follow through with consequences.

Remember to avoid the common mistakes that break the rules of Contingency and Reinforcement which includes: Giving Unclear Directions, Giving the Reinforcement non-Contingently, and Not giving the Reinforcement after the Directions were Followed. To refresh your memory or read more about Contingency and Reinforcement, visit the ABA Best Behaviors Blog.


Ask Mr. Dang questions or find out more about ABA and Summit School's programs.