I had the pleasure of entertaining my nephew and niece over a couple of days this March Break. They were a pleasure. The line-ups at the Ontario Science Centre - not so much. I did not worry however, because I had the power of differential reinforcement of other behaviours to help us get through it.
Differential reinforcement of other behaviours (DRO) is a reinforcement strategy where you reinforce the absence of any undesirable behaviour during a period of time (e.g., 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour etc.). If a person can refrain from displaying undesirable or challenging behaviour in a set amount of time, they have access to a reinforcer. Rather than wait for something undesirable to occur and only reacting then, DRO offers an alternative by saying, “Hey, thanks for NOT engaging in [undesirable behaviour]” and to keep doing what they are doing.
Recognizing that waiting in line can be difficult for young children, perhaps resulting in whining, flopping on the ground, fighting with their sibling or running around, I wanted to give the kids credit for coping with the situation and for demonstrating patience. Estimating that the line-up would take about 30 minutes, I very loosely set my criterion for 10 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, I made sure to acknowledge that the situation was not favourable but that I appreciated them waiting nicely. We got to the front of the line without issue and more importantly (I think), I reinforced their behaviour of waiting.
I like the use of DRO during situations you know can be difficult for others or where challenging behaviour is likely. It is an “anything but” approach to reinforcement that relies more on others recognizing that a period of time has gone by without incident and to give a person credit for that. DRO is the opposite of nagging or yelling at children to “behave” as you slip in some positive reinforcement before something undesirable occurs. In the community or at home, a loosely set DRO criterion can be managed during extraordinary circumstances such as parties, doctor’s visits, travelling, attending assemblies, recitals etc.
Can you use a little DRO in your life?