My Behavior Management Plan

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.


  • Actually, I’m somewhere in between too. I love cursing to the high heavens. What stops me from doing is just a real code switch, sort of how I go from English to Spanish. I love cursing, but I also know that professionally, it’s not acceptable unfortunately. So I curb it by thinking twice about what I say. People probably think I have some sort of speech impediment, but little do they know I got a $#!+load on my mind …

  • Having children in the house is a HUGE reason for self editing. Don’t want the principal to eventually know you taught the children that great vocabulary. Personally, I’ve never been a cursing fiend, but we’ve been extra careful since having our two boys. Good luck. Enjoy the reinforcer whatever it is! I’m looking forward to hearing that you met your goal!

  • UPDATE, 12/19 – Got cut off in traffic; called offending driver an asshole. Back to Day 1 tomorrow.

  • UPDATE, 12/22 – After a few false starts, I finally made it dawn to dusk without swearing on Friday, 12/21! Traffic seems to be my downfall; maybe if I can avoid being anywhere near a car for the next two weeks, I’ll succeed.

  • I do swear, not excessively, I hope. When I do swear it’s in French, and few people even realize that I have sworn.

    My strategy to rupture all swearing was to invent new curse words. My current favorite is “sacrifice humain”. Literally translated this would be human sacrifice.

    Why do I say this? Is it that when I stub my toe or spill my hot drink on myself, I just need to vent frustration? I have always wondered why we curse? The choice words are often out of context and to me seems to be a force of habit. No? That’s why I chose to trade swearing in for saying something silly, that makes no sense.

  • I got tagged with my first meme. I’m passing it along to you. Feel free to pass on it if it’s not your thing.


  • Some long overdue responses:

    @jose As a student of the language (and habitual swearer), I think swearing absolutely has linguistic and social merit; I’m just trying to curb my use of it in front of my wife and kids. For some reason, controlling myself at work has never been a problem, just on personal time. I’ve been much more aware of it this past week.

    @cpbw This is a great idea; I’ll have to give it a shot. I think I just need to find a word that packs the same labiodental/dorsal combo punch as my beloved F-word (is “puck” too similar?)

    @ann You didn’t link to the meme; I’ll check your blog for it. My kids are definitely the primary impetus behind this change.

    UPDATE, 12/24 – I made it THREE FULL DAYS, until an early morning (pre-6 am) tear- and vulgarity-inducing toe stub today. Due to the early hour, I’m allowing myself to start today over as Day 1.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Catching up on badly needed reading……..

    Oh dear. I’m in the cursing dog house!

  • @taylor Yeah, so am I – had a very stressful holiday period, and didn’t last a single day until the end of December. Today is the end of my third full consecutive day.

    For the record, I’m not anti-swearing, I just don’t want my 3-year-old doing it.

  • Co-signing with Jose.

    Additionally, given the various social constructs operating in American society, cursing tends to be over-looked/tolerated for some and not for others.

    In any event, for the sake of your children, try to get a handle on the colorful language. Children model what they see/hear.

  • @missprofe Well, you hit the nail on the head – if it weren’t for my kids, I likely wouldn’t even be thinking along these lines. Thanks for dropping by & commenting; always glad to have new folks in the mix.

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