Often times we have to do things we don’t want to do before we can have a reward or reinforcement. We have to prepare meals before we can eat them, you must fill up your gas tank in order to be able use your car without running out of gas, and finally you must mow your lawn for both aesthetics as well as to create a landscape to play on. If you notice the trend here, we have to first put in the work, then gain our reward. The same is true for the students we serve.
The Premack Principle, also known as ‘Grandma’s Law’ is a behavior intervention used across the ABA world. It works very well when properly implemented. The key is finding a reinforcer valuable enough to evoke the desired behavior. The “Grandma’s Law” part refers to the old Grandma demand we’ve all probably received that goes something like, “first eat your broccoli, then you can have your ice cream”. All individuals respond to reinforcers differently as some are more highly rewarded than others by a particular reinforcer. Finding a valuable reinforcement for completion of homework tasks when the child comes home from school can relieve some in-home stress for parents.
The key is providing the demand with “first-then” language. Suppose your child really struggles with reading and upon presentation of literature tasks engages in challenging behaviors. It may be helpful to present first-then language before presenting the math task. You may say, “first, do 5 problems, then you can have 3 minutes on the trampoline”, (or whatever reinforcement is appropriate for your child). Doing this type of intervention is a tested and effective antecedent manipulation to prevent challenging behaviors from occurring.