I was told this during one of my first in depth training sessions as a “green” behavior therapist (now referred to as RBT’s in the ABA field).

In the early part of my career, working in the ABA field, I would allow a few of my clients to “run all over me”.

I had no, get this…. boundaries. 

A good colleague and friend of mine oversaw a client I was working with, refuse to comply with a task and observed the client become more and more physical with me. 

Without saying a word, she took over my session and demanded that he complete the task without engaging in any challenging behaviors. 

Long story short. He did it. 

With 1 or fewer instances of challenging behavior too. 

I was embarrassed. At the same time, I was inspired to one day model some of her similar behaviors so that I, too, could assert myself with this client to view me as someone who isn’t going to allow that sort of behavior to be tolerated or reinforced. 

Setting up initial boundaries is integral to building rapport and mutual respect with one another. 

You see, if I wanted to have sessions with fewer challenging behaviors with my client, I had to, you guessed it right, “teach them how to treat me.”

Be fair without being a mat that they can walk on. 

Never back down. What you say is what you mean kind of thing.

Model good behavior. If I expect them to exhibit desirable behavior, I must exhibit the desirable behavior as well. 

Let’s talk about you 

What behaviors pose as a challenge for you? Going from one thing to the next without taking a break? Going hours without eating a single meal? Eating unhealthy and fat laden foods? Saying hurtful things out loud to yourself in front of your family? 

Let’s change the narrative on this

Don’t accept people to describe to you who they believe you are. 

For instance, checking out at the grocery store  and a nearby lurker tells you, “I don’t know how you do it with it handling your child’s behavior. You’ve got your hands full. I can tell you are a busy mom.”

Change that. You are a Special Needs mom or dad that happens to have a lot on your plate. 

But that’s not all you are. 

You have dreams, interests, motivators, things you love and other things you daydream about trying. 

You’re not just a Special Needs parent. Don’t just identify with that label but allow yourself to think of yourself as someone who is more than what meets the eye. 

Disability or not, your child can observe or pick up on your behavior. 

Including the ones you are choosing not to display like, utilizing Self-Care practices. 

You can continue advocating for your child, while also enjoying the other parts of you that bring you joy. 

So, again I ask, how are you teaching your child to treat you?


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