Friday, March 6, 2015

Preventative Teaching

As I have talked about before we are in a parenting program right now.  It has been insightful and needed, but also hard and sometimes even gut wrenching.  I've decided to write about the tools I'm learning because it has already changed the course of our lives as parents and I know it could help others.

For anyone who is wanting to look into the program first hand, it is through Utah Village and is called Families First.  The University of Utah does a study on it every year to make sure it is still effective.  In fact my niece works at a residential home for teenage girls and uses the exact same program.  Quite interesting if you ask me.  Sara* (name changed) our specialist works with ages up to 18 and uses all of the same tools.  My point works for all ages and with some of the hardest behaviors.  Now I do want to point out that I do believe Emme needed to be in a place where she could actually slow down and focus on what's being taught.  Thanks to the right medication and hard work our therapist felt like Emme was in a place where she could learn and actually retain the information she was being given.   There was a time it was not so.  But, I digress...

The first skill I learned was Preventative Teaching and guys... it is life changing.  With this skill we noticed more of change right away whereas the other skills took some more work to see improvement.

 Note* most of this info is straight from their handbook and not my from my own genius mind.

Preventive Teaching

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
-Benjamin Franklin

When to use________

1. When your child needs to learn something new.
2. When your child has behaved inappropriately in the past.
3. Always at a neutral time. 


1. Positive motivation statement
2. Introduce the skill and steps
3. Reason for using the skill
4. Demonstrate skill
5. Youth Practice (at least 3 times)
6. Praise and feedback
7. Positive consequence (reward)
8. Preventive prompts


1. Tell them something positive.   ex. - "You are doing such a good job sitting quiet right now."
2. Talk to them about how you want them to act later.  ex. - "Later we are going out to eat and I want you to stay in your chair, keep your voice quiet, and ask mom or dad for their phone if you get bored."
3. Reason.  ex. - "because we enjoy our dinner more when everyone uses their quiet voice and stays seated."
4. Reward.  ex. - "if you do that we can stop for a cookie on the way home."
5. Practice.  ex. - "Let's play restaurant and show each other how we're going to act tonight at dinner."

**To be honest I don't always give a reason, because at Emme's age the least amount of words I say the better she can remember everything.  We also tend to skip practicing here and there and it still seems to work fine.  I usually just remind her of what I expect of her a few more times throughout the day.

Real Life Situations__________

We noticed an immediate difference after introducing Preventative Teaching.

Before... Emme was running away and refusing to go to class at school.  She would kick me and scream the second she saw me after school.  She was hitting and biting friends during school.  She was getting scores of 2s and 3s (five being the best) on her goals.  Church was hell (is that an oxymoron?) because she was escaping from primary and running through the halls.  She occasionally would throw a chair and scare the other kids.  She'd lay on the floor next to the person doing sharing time and roll around.  She'd come into my class while I was teaching and take apart my bag.  Once she even cut her dress.  Seriously guys....Church...!!   At restaurants she would refuse to stay in her seat and crawl all over the dirty floor under the table.  She'd scream and run around the table.  Getting her into the car at any time was like catching a squirrel while it's running up a tree.  The list goes on and on my friends.

After... Emme went right to class, treated her friends nicely, scored 5s every day, and walked straight to the car after school without screaming or hitting me. At church, she has stayed with her class every single week and hasn't disrupted the group once or run away.  Serious miracles.  She has improved immensely at restaurants, but still gets pretty wiggly.  She no longer spends it on the disgusting floor though and to that I call it a success.  85% of the time she gets into the car with no problems and I no longer have to catch her and physically put her in the car.

Things to Note_________

Praise is key and you can never use too much of it.  Find ways to uplift your child all the live long day.  Especially, when you feel like they are underserving of it.

Positive consequences, like giving rewards, changes the way the brains thinks and acts where as negative doesn't.  Don't freak out... I'm not saying you can't use negative consequences only that positive is what brings the long term change.  I'll talk about negative and positive consequences in another post.

Rewards can be anything.  Treats, reading a book together, getting to go to the park, getting to play their favorite toy, extra time on a device.  Whatever floats your kid's boat.


Feel free to comment or email me

I'll answer the best I can!


  1. Behavior modification principles are fascinating to me. I need to be doing more of this.

  2. Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I know it takes you time to type it up, and I really appreciate it! Please keep sharing!!!! I had to carry Noah out of Cafe Rio today with him thrashing and trying to hit me, sobbing and shouting, "I don't love you anymore!" Holy moly!! I think we better do a little preventative teaching before going into a restaurant next time!!!

  3. What are the preventative prompts? I am using this at church in an hour!

  4. Are you going to be in Idaho anytime soon? I need to talk this through with you! How has Emme's behavior in Sacrament Meeting been? Today was terrible again, and I was in tears by the end--so defeated. I think I did the preventative teaching wrong--I think I talked too much and emphasized too much before church, so it ended up sounding like nagging and I became too invested in it. When Noah can tell that I really want him to do something, he does the opposite. UGH! Also, I told him he could have fruit snacks during the closing song as a reward if he was reverent, but I almost feel like that's too much time for him to have to wait for it--it's too abstract. Should I give him one fruit snack every ten minutes if he's reverent or something? Needless to say, he did not get the fruit snacks today (he certainly wasn't reverent), so then we had to deal with that meltdown. I almost feel like rewards undermine my efforts with Noah because everything becomes about GETTING something. What has been your experience with Emme and rewards?

    1. Sorry Rachel I just saw this! Yes I can answer all of your questions! I'll be in idaho this weekend and I'm not leaving until Monday so maybe we can meet up monday. My next post will be about consequences. Noah is learning something new and that mom and dad are acting different so you may see some major melt downs in the beginning. With preventative teaching at his age I would definitely give him a treat every 10 min that he behaves well. Maybe at first even every two minutes. It sounds silly, but they start to realize acting well gets rewards where not behaving doesn't. Even if he is melting down compliment something he is doing right. It's sounds crazy and you may want to rip your hair out, but slowly you will see changes. I'm going to text you tomorrow!