A major professional interest of mine is behavior management and support. As a school psychologist (and possible future behavior analyst), I’ll be called upon to figure out why kids engage in certain behaviors and devise behavior management plans for them.
I’m really looking forward to honing my chops in a professional capacity (read: get paid for it), but I’ve already gotten some informal practice in this arena as a teacher and parent. But, at the risk of sounding like a cheesy movie tagline, I’m about to take on my toughest client: myself.
This will shock and amaze people who know me only in a professional capacity, but off the clock, I swear like a sailor. I’m talking straight up blue streak, especially when I drink, drive, and/or get frustrated (but never all three at once; mercy!). Part of me feels like I’m getting too old for this, but a bigger part of me feels awful for my wife, who hates it. My cursing sets her on edge and aggravates her like nothing else I do (and I give her plenty of reasons to be aggravated). I’ve tried to stop, but I give in to old habits too easily. On top of that, my son is getting older, and his vocabulary is growing, mostly via mimicry. I’ve also got a little girl on the way, and neither of them need to hear their dad talking like that. This has got to stop.
I’m trying a real basic token economy approach to this. For each full day (5:30 am – whenever I pass out) I go without cursing, I get to X off a day on our calendar. The deal I struck with my wife (and myself) is this: I hit two straight curseless weeks, I get a major reinforcer, upon which we’ve agreed in advance. I won’t share what that is, but suffice to say it’s something I want badly enough to go two full weeks without swearing (internal monologue notwithstanding). I’m at the end of my first full day; 14 days takes me right up to 2008’s doorstep.
If this seems goofy or stupid to you (really, how hard is it to speak civilly?), think about that one bad habit you have that you just can’t kick: you eat too much junk food and put on too much weight. You procrastinate with your grading. You bite
someone else’s your toenails. I enjoy exercise, I’ve been much better about my grading this year, but I can not get this vulgar, profane monkey off my back. I’ve asked teachers to engage in this style of behavior management with students in the past; let me now put my money where my dirty little mouth is and see how well it works for me.
Psychologist, heal thyself.