I was still in school when Crazy Dave was at JuvyDinks R Us. I happened to be taking Child Psychology the fall that Dave was with us. Our semester project was to find a juvenile and create a behavior modification program to change some behavior. About the time I got the assignment, Dave enrolled in the local vocational technical school to learn welding.
Dave kept coming home from school dirty and sweaty and stinking up a storm. So, with my boss’s permission I made a behavior contract with Dave (and got a commitment from the other staff to help enforce it.) It was really simple. Dave needed to take a shower and put on clean clothes when he got home from school. If he did, he got to watch TV. If he didn’t, no TV until he took a shower. Since Dave liked to park in front of the TV for hours on end, it was the most powerful motivator I had at my disposal. I was thinking “Easy A this semester.”
Well, it took less than a week for Dave to get the hang of the routine and we never had a bit of trouble out of him about the shower after that. In the first week of December, when I was getting ready to write up the report about my experiment, the education specialist who worked for us got around to calling VoTech for a progress report. She discovered that Dave had quit going to class in the middle of September. She never thought anything was amiss, because Dave came home at the same time every day, dirty and sweaty and stinking up a storm. It turned out that he didn’t like welding, but he did like the library, so every day he rode the bus to school, then went to the public library. Right before it was time to get on the bus to go home, he would run until he worked up a sweat and then roll around in the dirt, then get on the bus.
It’s hard to write a paper demonstrating the principles of behavior modification in action and eat crow at the same time. Luckily, my professor had a sense of humor.