Linda G. Hill

Life in progress


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#SoCS – Romance – Caution! This post has nothing to do with romance.

I never wanted to be a romance writer. That is, I never set out to be one. I’m more of a relationship writer. And let’s face it, romantic relationships are something most of us strive for, at some point in our lives.

Being interested in behaviors and the thoughts that make us all tick makes it a bit of a no-brainer that I’d write about relationships. Behaviors were explained to me in a course I took, for whatever reason, to learn about what makes my Autistic son do the things he does, and to learn to curb some of his inappropriate and unwanted behaviors. The most interesting (to me) thing I took away from that course is that we all engage in social behaviors, whether positive or negative. All the time. Every time we communicate with another human — or I suppose any living thing — we exhibit behaviors in order to get the response we hope for in return.

Smiling at a stranger, for instance, is a positive behavior. If I smile at someone, I hope for a smile in return. Okay, stay with me on this – these are just examples. If I stand in the middle of a crowded street and start crying, it might be because I hope for someone to try to comfort me, or ask me what’s wrong. This can be seen as a negative behavior. Manipulative, perhaps. Or maybe it’s a genuine cry for help.

The most important part of this is that our children do things like the last example, all the time. Whether they’re Autistic or not. Knowing, as a parent, what is a genuine cry for help and what is simply a manipulative behavior bent on getting our attention can be tricky, but discerning the difference can be a valuable tool.

Go back to the smiling thing. If I smile at, say, ten people I pass on the street and not one of them smiles back, I’m going to give up. My behavior is obviously not giving me the response I’m going for. Rather, it’s being ignored. Now take the screaming, crying child. What is yelling back at them going to do? Encourage the behavior, because it’s giving them exactly what they’re seeking. Attention. No words, and no amount of negative behavior back at them is going to stop their crying. But if we ignore it… and sometimes it can take ten times before they get it… their behavior will stop.

In the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) program I was taking, it’s called “planned ignoring.” It’s very simple, and it works. I can attest to that.

Ah, romance. How the hell did I get here? Relationships. Right. All birds of the same feather. And this is why I’m a multi-genre but single-minded author.

This insanely all-over-the-place post is brought to you by Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Find the rules and the prompt here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/03/17/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-mar-1817/ and join in. It’s insanely fun!


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Traces Prompt – Stop Raining on my Parade

On Traces Of The Soul, Oliana wrote: This week the topic will be about negativity and how you react to pessimism. Perhaps you are thinking how you recently managed to get away from the throngs of a negative person in your life, i.e. relationship, friendship, family, work…OR, how you succeeded in turning your own self-destructive side…that inner critic to someone more positive and accepting.

Write a poem, story (real or fiction) about this topic…negative thinking and how it can impact on your life.

The prompt got me thinking about negative people and how I grew up, and most importantly what I’ve learned in the intervening years. First, a little background:

I was a quiet child with no siblings and few friends. My world consisted of my parents and the couple that were their best friends. When I wasn’t quiet – when I got into trouble – my parents spanked me. It was the ‘thing to do’ back then. When I yelled, they yelled back. The point was, they always reacted. Unless I was being good. Then they left me alone.

Fast forward to when I had children of my own. I believed in my parent’s method of raising a child, though not with the hitting part. I admit, I had my moments, but most of the time I refrained from smacking if not from the yelling. There was plenty of yelling – I, like my parents, reacted in kind to my children’s tantrums.

Then, about three years ago I learned something that would change not only my life, but those of my children and the people around me: Applied Behavioural Analysis, or ABA. ABA is widely used to help with negative behaviours in Autistic individuals. But it didn’t take me long to figure out that it can be applied to anyone – even myself.

One of the most important lessons I learned was that everything we do and say when communicating for attention can be considered a ‘behaviour.’ For instance, we smile and say hello to a stranger which is a positive behaviour. The attention we receive back is our reward – it is a reward because we elicited our behaviour for the purpose of getting attention. In the case of my children, I found that when I rewarded their good behaviour with attention and ignored the bad, they quickly came to the realization that if they wanted my attention (or for me to react to them in any way at all) they had to be calm. Yelling and screaming to get a reaction out of me became a thing of the past – and it changed my reaction also. No longer was I screaming at them, because they began to come to me with a reasonable tone of voice in the first place.

As I said, this doesn’t only apply to childish behaviour (though many adults display it on a regular basis). Take internet trolls for instance. They display negative behaviour for what? A reward. Their reward is whatever attention we give them. The whiners of the world? I’ll try once to put a positive light on a comment such as, ‘when will this rain end?’ by saying something like, ‘the grass needs it.’ But when they keep on complaining, I change the subject to something more positive, or walk away. Many of us do this without really thinking about it. But it’s different when you’re talking to someone in a casual setting rather than someone you’re with day in and day out. Politeness goes by the wayside after a while, and you either react to it or give in to it and become, basically, the same negative person you’re with.

Unless, you stop rewarding it.

For more information on ABA, go here: http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba where you can find a quick overview of what it’s about.

I’ve always been a ‘cup half full’ sort of person. There have been times in my life when I’ve lost sight of that, I’ll admit. But learning not to react at all to unnecessary negative behaviour (which is not to say that I don’t empathize with people who are genuinely struggling) has made me a more patient, calm and positive person.

Thanks very much, Oliana, for this prompt!