The Seven Steps to Earning Instructional Control is a book by Robert Schramm, MA, BCBA and Megan Miller, MS, BCBA on how to build instructional control with a child. It centers around the use of positive reinforcement to build control. Positive reinforcement is a process of increasing responses through the addition of preferred consequences. The book emphasizes positive reinforcement as opposed to negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is a process of decreasing responses through the removal of aversive consequences. Although it is easy to get into the habit of relying on aversive consequences, and often difficult to gain control through preferred consequences, positive reinforcement will often result in a more lasting and more generalized skill set to help a child flourish. Positive reinforcement is a cornerstone of the practice of Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, and the book illustrates how to use such practices to build rapport with a child. The 7 steps are as follows:
Step 1: Control Reinforcers – Provide reinforcers when your child is behaving appropriately such as by asking for them nicely. Make it clear that you control the reinforcers. Your child earns reinforcers by behaving appropriately. They do not just get the reinforcers all the time.
Step 2: Pair Yourself with Reinforcement – Show your child that you are fun to be around. Build rapport by interacting with your child in a fun and easy going way.
Step 3: Always be Consistent and Follow Through – When you say you will do something, do it. If you tell your child to do something, wait for your child to do it before providing the reinforcer.
Step 4: Focus on Positive Rather than Negative Reinforcement – Show your child that following directions will help him or her to obtain what he or she wants. Give your child easy tasks and then reinforce completion of those tasks.
Step 5: Build from Constant Reinforcement to Intermittent Reinforcement – Provide consistent reinforcement. In the beginning of a new task, reinforce every correct response. As your child masters a task, gradually reduce your reinforcement.
Step 6: Prioritize for Yourself and Your Learner – Demonstrate that you know your child’s priorities by engaging with all of your child’s reinforcers. If necessary, expand the variety of your child’s reinforcers by introducing new ones in a fun and engaging way.
Step 7: Handle Negative Behavior – Do not allow your child to avoid or escape your instructions with inappropriate behavior. Instead ignore or block their inappropriate behavior while removing the reinforcer until they engage in appropriate behavior. Do not try to physically force your child to engage with the activity. Your child should respond independently to the task.
Schramm, R., & Miller, M. (2014). The 7 steps to earning instructional control: a program guide for developing learner cooperation with Aba and verbal behavior. Buckeberg: Pro-ABA.