Let’s backtrack. We already know that behavior generally serves one of four major functions, and that we have to find an alternate way to meet the function. Simple enough, right? The function is to help me deal with frustration or anger, the behavior we want to get rid of is swearing, and now we just have to figure out how to make it worth my while to knock it off.
But wait! What if we could alter environmental conditions such that I wouldn’t be as likely to curse as much – wouldn’t that be helpful? I’ve found that my fuse is a lot shorter when I’m sleep-deprived, so one of my first steps toward cleaning up my language was actually trying to get more sleep. I didn’t collect hard data on this, but I did notice that on where days I slipped up, I usually had only gotten about 4 or 5 hours of sleep the previous night. Anecdotally speaking, days that followed 6 or more hours of sleep were far less likely to see me curse. Also, I tended to swear more when I drove (my wife and I drive to work together, so this was relatively easy to address – she agreed to take the wheel some days when I just felt particularly worn down from work). This is called controlling the setting event (long-term lead-up to the behavior, like how much sleep I got) and antecedent (letting me ride shotgun).
The flipside to the antecedent, of course, is the consequence. Although the word has negative connotations, it really just means what occurs as a result of the behavior. We already addressed my most consistent consquence: I felt a little better about whatever was bugging me after swearing. Fair enough, but the other consequences were that my son was repeating me and my wife was severely agitated. The cons outweigh the pros here, and things needed to change.
Setting event _____ leads to antecedent _____ leads to target behavior _____ leads to consequence _____.
If you can successfully fill in these blanks, you’ll have the tools to manage any undesired behavior – yours or somebody else’s. @JackieB, @audhilly, and anyone else who’s trying to break themselves (or a student) of a bad habit, this is one fill-in-the-blank worksheet that might be worth your while. Next time, we’ll add the final two components: time and reinforcement.