I'm currently undergoing some training to be a qualified facilitator of the Signposts programme, which is a programme that originated from Victoria, Australia, designed to provide support to parents to build better behaviours in their children. From the little I know about the programme, Signposts focuses on behavioural interventions to increase positive behaviours and decrease negative ones, preferring positive reinforcement methods such as using rewards and praise. At the same time consequences are utilised as negative reinforcement to reduce incidences of negative behaviour. Being strengths oriented, parents are encouraged to identify strengths in their children, and work more towards increasing positive behaviours in their children as opposed to relying too much on negative reinforcements to reduce certain behaviours.
For me, this modality of group work presents a shift from the usual framework I am accustomed to: i.e. looking systemically at the function of the behaviour in the context of the various relationships in the family and other systems, etc. However, I subscribe to the philosophy of "If it works, then do it/more of it", so time will tell whether this method will work with the clients I serve. One potential challenge would be whether the language utilised in the programme would be easily understood and adopted by parents from vulnerable populations who may not have sufficient command of the language of behavioural psychology postulated in the programme.
Nonetheless, the programme is promising especially in Singapore, where clients tend to approach the Family Service Centres (or other voluntary welfare organisations) for specific advice on what to do with regards to managing their children. Hence providing parents with such information can complement other theoretical modalities of intervention.
Henceforth, there shall be a series of posts about the programme and I will also talk about certain behavioral oriented ideas and interventions. The main reason is to help me remember the ideas I have read up on (well, they are new ideas), though parents can benefit from these posts.
First step is the need for us to work towards measuring behaviours that we see in our children. It is important for us to be clear and specific on the behaviours that we either want to see more of, or less of. For e.g. instead of saying: "I want Boboy to be a good boy", we should be more specific and say "I want Boboi to be able to pour a glass of drink on his own". By being able to specifically define behaviours, we can be consistent in our dishing out of positive reinforcements whenever we see the behaviour happening.
Following this, we should then identify the measures that we would use to measure the behaviour over time. There are three main measures: Frequency, Duration, and Permanent products. Frequency and Duration are self explanatory, for example, the number of times your child throws a tantrum in a day, or the duration of time that child cries at night when told to go to sleep. Permanent products represent the total number of items (or products) that occur because of a good or bad behaviour. An example would be the number of toys left lying unattended in the house, or the number of apples eaten by the child.
Measuring is important to track behaviours, as it is not realistic to expect behaviours to change drastically, but we can motivate ourselves to continue implementing these interventions if we start seeing small changes happening. At the same time, we can also see patterns of behaviour change should they coincide with certain life events (though this is an added idea of mine).
That's about it for today's post. Those keen to find out more about the Signposts programme, can check with KK hospital's medical social work department, or check with your nearest family service centre to see if they are conducting such programmes there.