By Dr. Fred Upton, Ph.D.
I am a person who always wants to have more data.
I love step-trackers, heart rate monitors, spread sheets and functional analyses of behavior. If I can graph a behavior, I feel like I can control it. This is not usually the case. Tracking a behavior doesn’t seem to always result in behavior change, much to my chagrin. So, what does result in behavior change?
Behavior change is hard. I’ve been interested in changing my own behavior. I’ve been trying to set good habits. Specifically, I’ve been trying to brush my teeth more. My brother is a dentist, and I’ll hear about any cavity I have. He found out I had some cavities at my last appointment and I haven’t heard the end of it. Anyway, I am trying to brush 3 times a day, particularly adding an after-lunch brushing session.
I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. He identifies 3 aspects of a habit: 1) a cue, 2) a behavior and 3) a reward. So, in hopes of trying to implement these aspects in my (hopefully) new habit, I have identified my own 3 aspects: 1) a cue = putting my toothbrush and toothpaste in my lunchbox so I will see it and it will thus remind me, 2) a behavior = actually brushing, and 3) a reward = clean teeth (which feels great) and the feeling of accomplishment from achieving my goal (and my brother’s approval!)
And so, tomorrow starts my first day of attempted behavior change! I am setting up my cues this evening as I pack my lunch. Making a new habit is hard...
As a behavioral psychologist, I specialize in helping people make changes in their behavior to create new habits. Teenage boys seem to be the most resistant to creating and maintaining habits that their parents see as necessary for independent living as an adult. I connect well with teenage boys I have helped many teens make long-standing changes in their self-care/hygiene, study habits, manners, morning and evening routines, etc. If you or your teen are struggling to create long-lasting behavioral changes, I can help.
Dr. Fred Upton, Ph.D.
McCaskill Family Services