Behavior Modification

An Overview of Behavioral Psychology

By | January 8th, 2018|Tags: , , , , |

Updated August 16, 2016
originally located at VeryWell.

Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shape our actions.

According to this school of thought, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner regardless of internal mental states.

Basically, only observable behavior should be considered—cognitions, emotions, and moods are far too subjective.

Strict behaviorists believed that any person can potentially be trained to perform any task, regardless of genetic background, personality traits, and internal thoughts (within the limits of their physical capabilities). It only requires the right conditioning.

A Brief History

Behaviorism was formally established with the 1913 publication of John B.

Watson’s classic paper, “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It.” It is best summed up by the following quote from Watson, who is often considered the “father” of behaviorism:

“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”

Simply put, strict behaviorists believe that all behaviors are the result of experience.

Any person, regardless of his or her background, can be trained to act in a particular manner given the right conditioning.

From about 1920 through the mid-1950s, behaviorism grew to become the dominant school of thought in psychology. Some suggest that the popularity of behavioral psychology grew out of the desire to establish psychology as an objective and measurable science. Researchers were interested in creating theories that could be clearly described and empirically measured but also used to make contributions that might have an influence on the fabric of everyday human lives.

There are two major types of conditioning:

  1. Classical conditioning is a technique frequently used in behavioral training in which a neutral stimulus is paired with a naturally occurring stimulus. Eventually, the neutral stimulus comes to evoke the same response as the naturally occurring stimulus, even without the naturally occurring stimulus presenting itself. The associated stimulus is now known as the conditioned stimulus and the learned behavior is known as the conditioned response.
  2. Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through reinforcements and punishments. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. When a desirable result follows an action, the behavior becomes more likely to occur again in the future. Responses followed by adverse outcomes, on the other hand, become less likely to happen again in the future.

Top Things to Know

  • Learning can occur through associations. The classical conditioning process works by developing an association between an environmental stimulus and a naturally occurring stimulus. In physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s classic experiments, dogs associated the presentation of food (something that naturally and automatically triggers a salivation response) with the sound of a bell, at first, and then the sight of a lab assistant’s white coat. Eventually, the lab coat alone elicited a salivation response from the dogs.
  • Different factors can influence the classical conditioning process. During the first part of the classical conditioning process, known as acquisition, a response is established and strengthened. Factors such as the prominence of the stimuli and the timing of presentation can play an important role in how quickly an association is formed.

    When an association disappears, this is known as extinction, causing the behavior to weaken gradually or vanish. Factors such as the strength of the original response can play a role in how quickly extinction occurs. The longer a response has been conditioned, for example, the longer it may take for it to become extinct.

  • Learning can also occur through rewards and punishments. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner described operant conditioning as the process in which learning can occur through reinforcement and punishment. More specifically, by forming an association between a certain behavior and the consequences of that behavior, you learn. For example, if a parent rewards their child with praise every time they pick up their toys, the desired behavior is consistently reinforced. As a result, the child will become more likely to clean up messes.
  • Reinforcement schedules are important in operant conditioning. This process seems fairly straightforward—simply observe a behavior and then offer a reward or punishment. However, Skinner discovered that the timing of these rewards and punishments has an important influence on how quickly a new behavior is acquired and the strength of the corresponding response.

    Continuous reinforcement involves rewarding every single instance of a behavior. It is often utilized at the beginning of the operant conditioning process. But as the behavior is learned, the schedule might switch to one of a partial reinforcement. This involves offering a reward after a number of responses or after a period of time has elapsed. Sometimes, partial reinforcement occurs on a consistent or fixed schedule. In other instances, a variable and an unpredictable number of responses or time must occur before the reinforcement is delivered.

  • Several thinkers influenced behavioral psychology. In addition to those already mentioned, there are a number of prominent theorists and psychologists who left an indelible mark on behavioral psychology. Among these are Edward Thorndike, a pioneering psychologist who described the law of effect, and Clark Hull, who proposed the drive theory of learning.
  • There are a number of therapeutic techniques rooted in behavioral psychology. Though behavioral psychology assumed more of a background position after 1950, its principles still remain important. Even today, behavior analysis is often used as a therapeutic technique to help children with autism and developmental delays acquire new skills. It frequently involves processes such as shaping (rewarding closer approximations to the desired behavior) and chaining (breaking a task down into smaller parts and then teaching and chaining the subsequent steps together). Other behavioral therapy techniques include aversion therapy, systematic desensitization, token economies, modeling, and contingency management.
  • Behavioral psychology has some strengths. Behaviorism is based on observable behaviors, so it is sometimes easier to quantify and collect data when conducting research. Effective therapeutic techniques such as intensive behavioral intervention, behavior analysis, token economies, and discrete trial training are all rooted in behaviorism. These approaches are often very useful in changing maladaptive or harmful behaviors in both children and adults.
  • It also has some weaknesses. Many critics argue that behaviorism is a one-dimensional approach to understanding human behavior. They suggest that behavioral theories do not account for free will and internal influences such as moods, thoughts, and feelings. Also, it does not account for other types of learning that occur without the use of reinforcement and punishment. Moreover, people and animals can adapt their behavior when new information is introduced even if that behavior was established through reinforcement.
  • Behavioral psychology differs from other perspectives. One of the major benefits of behaviorism is that it allowed researchers to investigate observable behavior in a scientific and systematic manner. However, many thinkers believed it fell short by neglecting some important influences on behavior. Freud, for example, felt that behaviorism failed by not accounting for the unconscious mind’s thoughts, feelings, and desires that influence people’s actions. Other thinkers, such as Carl Rogers and the other humanistic psychologists, believed that behaviorism was too rigid and limited, failing to take into consideration personal agency.

    More recently, biological psychology has emphasized the power the brain and genetics play in determining and influencing human actions. The cognitive approach to psychology focuses on mental processes such as thinking, decision-making, language, and problem-solving. In both cases, behaviorism neglects these processes and influences in favor of studying just observable behaviors.

A Word From Very Well

One of the greatest strengths of behavioral psychology is the ability to clearly observe and measure behaviors. Weaknesses of this approach include failing to address cognitive and biological processes that influence human actions. While the behavioral approach might not be the dominant force that it once was, it has still had a major impact on our understanding of human psychology. The conditioning process alone has been used to understand many different types of behaviors, ranging from how people learn how language develops.

But perhaps the greatest contributions of behavioral psychology lie in its practical applications. Its techniques can play a powerful role in modifying problematic behavior and encouraging more positive, helpful responses. Outside of psychology, parents, teachers, animal trainers, and many others make use of basic behavioral principles to help teach new behaviors and discourage unwanted ones.

Sources:

Skinner, B. F. About Behaviorism. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc; 1974.

Mills, J. A. Control: A History of Behavioral Psychology. New York: NYU Press; 2000.

Watson, J. B. Behaviorism. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers; 1930.

The Safety Parent

By | January 3rd, 2018|Tags: , , , , , , |

A long time ago I had a scary conversation about child predators and how to keep our children safe. The talk progressed sharing fear-based stories heard on the news, internet and via word of mouth. We naturally helped each other as each tale got more difficult to fathom. It followed with good parenting advice on how to prepare children for such a potentially horrible world. What hit me later is that I don’t want my kids to grow up fearful. I want to instill confidence.

At the time my own fears were getting in the way. The avoidance method was in full effect. Around the same time, my oldest son had an interaction with two separate men at the grocery store. One made him very uncomfortable so he stayed clear. Another was a homeless man and they shared a special interaction. One that I would have robbed him of had I been around. I’m proud of him and I don’t have advice on how to make it safer. It was time to review how I parent, the rules of safety, and make decisions that have long-term benefits for my children.

When I think of what I want my children to be I think of words like outgoing, adventuresome, kind, brave, intelligent, and confident. I don’t think of weary or even aware. There is a question that looms over my assertion. How do you keep your children safe?

The best I can do is feed their intelligence by watching the news and discussing stories as needed. As a family, we work on confidence and self-esteem with self-defense or martial arts. We inspire adventure with travel, imagination, and books. I have had to come to peace with the fact that as ready as I think I am, there is always the unknown that I am not prepared for.

There are many strategies that can be used to nurture a personality trait. As the parent, you decide which actions you take, even when if it is no action there are outcomes. If you read my blogs, you know that I am a proponent of parenting with intention. I proffer that after reading this you look at what you want for your kids with regard to their safety and decide if your actions are helping or hurting them get where they need to be.

The biggest lesson in this part of the journey was learning that I have to continue to work on my own fears. Fear is a strong emotion and impacts the decision-making process in a profound way. Children look to us for our strength and guidance. Making sure that I have enough energy saved up to offer what is needed is my goal, my mission, my work.

Thank you for reading. There is more available at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. Come visit to learn more about what Breakthrough, LLC has to offer. We invite feedback. This is a great place to start a conversation.

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Vlinder Elf Tips

By | December 12th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

It’s that time of year when parents get a couple of extra hands to keep an on eye on things. I’m talking about the elves. I appreciate using the little guys and gals to help bring some order into the home. There are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that this is helping your quest to maintain long term change and not adding additional stressors to your kiddos. It’s a nice break having Santa’s naughty and nice list as a motivator but since we know you aren’t going to send a present back to the North Pole we need to keep it real.

Some children are more prone to anxiety than others. You are feeding that by suggesting that they may not get the gifts if they don’t perform. Careful how much power you give the elves and remember not to put into jeopardy that which will not be taken away. This tradition is meant to be fun.

Using the elves to create order in your home is a type of reward system. Depending on when the elves show up at your house, the reward takes a long time to get there. One way to manage this is by setting up other forms of positive reinforcement. Rewards are not always presents and candy. Some ideas are sitting at the table with mom or dad to write a letter to a loved one, special one on one time or tons of kudos and high fives! Be clear why the reward has been earned if you want to see it repeated.

Finally, if you use your elf for behavior management then please remember that they, the elves, also “see” the positive behavior. Allow your kiddos time to reflect on the positive reports that the elves will be reporting to Santa.  Personal pride goes a long way.

If you have any questions or suggestions for today’s entry please contact us on our website, www.ourbreakthroughs.com. We love visitors and invite you take a look around while you are there. If you would like to sign up for our free newsletter there is a form provided on the home page. Happy Holidays!

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Vlinder Reward Cards

By | December 5th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

Happy Holidays,

November was the month of gratitude. Now December is our chance to give back! Our gift to you is a set of Vlinder Reward Cards. All you have to pay is shipping.

    • What if I own Vlinder? You can have a second set for yourself or share with a friend!
    • What will I do with cards if I don’t have a game? There are two things you can do!
          1. Purchase the Vlinder Task Sheets. We will make sure you get a set of instructions!
          2. Gain access to the Interactive Task Sheet app. This makes your Vlinder experience 100% customizable! Plus you never have to worry about where to get your refills!
    • Can I transfer my gift to a friend? Just tell us where to send the cards and we will make sure that they get there.

However you choose to use the Reward Cards, they are yours free of charge

Our goal at Breakthrough is to make a difference in the homes of families just like yours. 

To qualify for your Vlinder Reward Cards all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by the end of December. The instructions will follow.

Happy Holidays!

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Where Did Vlinder Come From

By | September 29th, 2017|Tags: , , , , |

A question I get asked a lot is how I came up with Vlinder. Was it something I played as a child or did I discover it while I was over seas. No…the answer is it is a compilation of a number of things over my career. One thing I like about social service is I am in an element that is easy to learn from others. That is what inspired me to create Vlinder. Picking and choosing the best pieces was the easy part of creating Vlinder.

My background is in Sociology. I believe in the concept that characteristics are developed and maintained within a society or social group rather than existing inherently. That thought should empower you to affect change in your child. This is the first lesson in Vlinder. Change is inevitable because your world is ever-changing. You can impact what it looks like.

In the late 90’s, when I worked first in prison and then with at-risk youth teaching life skills, I took lessons in team building, communication, stress and anger management, motivation and value recognition. You will find each of them interwoven in the game.

In 2006 when I first started having children I began to realize that there is a difference utilizing a program in theory vs. in practicum. I realize that sounds silly since my child was just a baby, but I realized that some of the expectations that I had for others, no longer applied to myself. The lessons themselves were still valid, but the application seemed unrealistic. It was like giving someone the tools without the instruction booklet.

I got another job working with youth and learned the importance of teaching expectations and most important recognizing growth. It wasn’t the first time that I appreciated this practice. It was, however the first time I had see it on such a large scale without the use of another “parenting style”.

At this point I had three children. I made a point not to bring my work home. I didn’t for a number of years, until that fateful day that my own children’s behavior put me over the edge and I realized that I wasn’t utilizing my skills at home. That “aha” moment was the biggest lesson that my children have given me.

I was reminded of the inspiration I had early in my career and how unattainable it felt after having children of my own. Now that my children were of an age when they needed direction I had a chance to make a change.

There are no chapters to read, no questionnaires to fill out, no exercises to complete. Vlinder is an experience for the whole family to benefit from. The beauty of it is that you can personalize it so that it is already part of your routine!

I hope this answers the question. Keep them coming! admin@ourbreakthroughs.com

For those of you that are just joining us, welcome. There is more at www.ourbreakthroughs.com.

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Why Does Vlinder Work? Behavior Management

By | September 2nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Good question! Something that I, as the creator, should be able to explain to you.

For those that have never read my blogs…Vlinder is a behavior management game or program that uses positive reinforcement to reward clearly set expectations. For more information visit the website.

This is not about how to play or even how it works…this is about WHY it works. The ABC’s of behavior management rests on three aspects: antecedents, behaviors and consequences. Antecedents are events that occur before behaviors present themselves. If a child doesn’t have a good meal, didn’t get enough sleep, and got news that they weren’t going to their friends house then those are the antecedents to the temper tantrum that followed. The tantrum is the behavior that you are trying to discourage. Parents generally have a built in consequence for poor behaviors which can be anything from avoidance to a time-out or even worse.

Taking this example and using Vlinder means that you set the expectations before the antecedents have a chance to impact behavior. Clearly the child is in no shape for a play date. Expectations are set for what is reasonable for them to achieve the goal either later in that day or the next day. What can they do to earn this time? Have a rest or eat more breakfast? Complete some of their morning responsibilities. Note that in this example they are not losing their playdate…they are working towards it. You have gotten the same result without a tantrum.

That is the simple explanation of why Vlinder works. We looked at the ABC’s of behavior management and we took control at “A” (antecedents).

There are times of the day that are typically more stressful than others. If you use Vlinder to structure time you will be amazed at how much smoother time will play out. Not only will you have more cooperation but you will have more time for yourself as your players know what they have to do…as their expectations have already been laid out for them.

As with any behavior management program, results will vary. I am the first to admit that the first couple of times that you try this new approach it can be confusing for your child and a tantrum may still follow. Habits are hard to break. As they come to see that you follow through with your promises they will begin to work hard. Stay positive as you see them trying. When they question just acknowledge that this is not earning their “stamps” (part of the game) to go to their play date.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com!

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Take 5

By | August 22nd, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , |

Today I’m here to help you be more mindful the next time you are angry with your child and trying to give a lesson in the moment. The problem is that we are tunnel visioned when we are angry and less rational. Why is that a problem? Your child is learning more then one lesson from you during this interaction.

First they are learning how to communicate. They may not yell at you, but they may start yelling at their siblings to express their anger. They may point their finger, ignore whats being said, shake their head, any number of mannerisms that you portray. Kids model what they see. If you want to raise a child who is respectful to loved ones, even during argument, best to cool down before preceding with the lesson. 

Second they are learning about respect. My husband tells our sons they have to respect him because he is their father. In the same conversation we teach them that respect is earned. It is a confusing message. I make every effort not to correct my husband in front of our children, so the only way that I can make sure that I am earning their respect in my conversations with them is to be sure that I am heard and then listen back.

Finally they are learning about consistency. If you allow yourself the time to think about your course of action then you are allowing yourself time to be consistent with your parenting.

It’s easy to fly off the hook when you get angry and yell at your child for something they’ve done. Im just asking for you to stop and think for a moment.  You’re providing more than one lesson in the moments following an event than you may think. It’s worth a five minute breather, to collect your thoughts, get a sip of water and then tackle the problem.

For more parenting tips or information on using positive reinforcement visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com!

My Kid is a Liar

By | July 4th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , |

I can still remember the look on my child’s face when he got caught in his first lie. It was the perfect mixture of defiance and embarrassment with neither behavior wanting to make an appearance. He wasn’t sure how to face the disappointment he had caused yet desperately wanted to find a loophole out of the situation. It was a hard lesson that day and it wasn’t the last. The fact is kids start “lying” for a variety of reasons and it isn’t until they are older that it starts to become deliberate and something that needs an intentional intervention.

There is no question that lying is a learned and even accepted behavior when growing up. I expect preschoolers enjoy believing their favorite Disney character lives somewhere in their world. I also expect they enjoy sharing their make believe adventures. Even as our kiddos get older and blame their make believe friends for spilled milk, somehow the sweetness of the story allows us to give the lesson to the friend, letting our kiddo off the hook.

I’m not saying that any of this is wrong! It is just important to understand that your kid is not inherently bad because they started lying about things that are suddenly more important in your eyes. Now it is time for your kiddo to start learning the value of telling the truth. This lesson deserves the same consistency that their previous lessons in lying received.

It is important to understand what your motivation is. In this case it is for your child to tell the truth. If your motivation is for your child to stop lying then you will be looking for and expecting poor behavior. It is not as powerful a message. Trust me…look for the positive, you and your child will be happier.

Next you want to set up a reward system. What are some of the behaviors that will show that they are telling the truth? The most obvious is a daily honesty reward. This would be on the honor system. Another could be what I call an ownership reward. There isn’t a day that goes by that my kids can’t take ownership of starting an argument, leaving clothing, etc. Finally I love creating a leadership reward. This reward is earned by showing leadership skills around the house and family.

The rewards are recognition stamps or stickers for a job well done. Its up to you to decide how many need to be earned to earn a larger reward. It is important for your child to work for something they want. If you have weekly goals and rewards then make them smaller. If you want to work towards a friend movie party, let him work at it for a while.

If you have more questions about setting up a reward system visit my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. You can also reach out to me at jenn@ourbreakthroughs.com 

This is a good blog to help you understand the difference between a bribe and a reward.

Angry in a Flash

By | June 4th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

There is more in a moment of anger than we credit; many different internal and external factors are at play. We have little control over some, but, we always have control over our reactions. We need to remember that when it comes to our children. Everyone has experienced when spilled milk one day is just an accident and the next day it is clumsiness and cause for a stern talking to.  It’s confusing to be a child.

Anger is the result of three things, something happening, how we experience it and ultimately how we react. The parent who experienced the spilled milk and was angry one day but wasn’t the day before had other internal and external things that affected their response. Lets take a closer look at the difference between internal and external factors and how they affect a person’s anger.

As we progress through life events go through our experience filter. It’s this filter that helps us decode how we feel about everything based on past experience, culture, upbringing, gender, race, or religion. Those feelings ultimately direct our reactions, impacts how we respond, even to something as simple as a glass of spilled milk. How would a glass of spilled milk impact you? If it makes a laud noise? If it breaks something? If you are embarrassed in front of friends or family? These are all examples of internal things that provoke anger because it is how we respond to external stimuli. These events alone are not a common trigger. Even though the events are external they are going through your experience filter and your internal belief structure that is impacting how you are relate to an incident.

Other internal factors that are easier to relate to are fatigue, pressure, conflict and insecurity. These have direct impact on how we choose to respond to an event.

When thinking about external factors one must think about the events that he or she experienced and the circumstances under which they occurred. For example think about the things in your life that caused you stress. Did you come up with any frustrations, annoyances, abuses, injustices, harassments, hurts, disappointments, or threats? These are all stimuli that activate your anger. It is clear that not all of us react the same way. A bully might see an insult as humorous from someone smaller; however, if threatened his response would be quite different. External factors are different from internal in that they alone can cause anger. They don’t need to go through your experience filter to stimulate a reaction.

It is understandable that people have different reactions to the same event. No two days are the same and our experiences throughout the day have an impact on how we treat those who cross our path. Understanding the factors that go into anger gives you a tool set to make different choices. Knowing that you are walking into a situation when you are tired and feeling vulnerable should warn you to go easy or to schedule a better time to have important conversations. If your child spills a glass of milk and you feel your temperature rise ask yourself some very important questions.

    1. Where is my stress gauge?
    2. Do I already feel anger about another incident?

These questions might help you from making saying and doing things that you will regret later.

If you have any questions or you would like to look up more information on behavior management, please visit our website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. Vlinder is a behavior management game created to encourage communication, cooperation and connection in the family. To learn more visit us here.

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Summer is Here Now What?

By | May 29th, 2017|Tags: , , , , , |

School is almost over and families everywhere are planning for summer. The last thing you want is to have kids hanging around playing video games. We no longer live in an age where one can say, “Be back before dark”. Where are the days when summer meant lazing around the pool with friends! The good news is that caregivers everywhere can add event coordinator to their resume. I was amazed to find out what that involved.

I’ve done some research on the web and I’m exhausted looking at what parents do nowadays to keep their children entertained. Making daily plans, setting summer goals, finding daycare, camps, daily journals, playdates, outings, daily and weekly activities just to name a few. Alone they don’t seem daunting but none of the websites I found had just one of them…they had all of them. Think about how much this costs. It’s unreasonable in this economy. Many families can’t keep up. Lets not forget about families where both parents work. How do they find the time?  Keeping up with the Joneses is no longer about a white picket fence…

I decided to brainstorm and come up with some ideas of my own.

  1. Mom clubs Plan with other moms to trade off. Your kids will be out of the house a day or two a week depending on how you structure your club.
  2. Hire a babysitter Someone who will be your helper. You can train and learn how to work together the best. You probably won’t be paying them as but as they learn and progress you can pay them more. Perhaps you will feel more comfortable letting your kids have more freedom around the neighbor hood or on adventures, your choice. In the meantime you are helping another kiddo get some valuable skills.
  3. Have a structured behavior chart Explain to your kiddos what you want them to do and reward them when they accomplish it. (www.ourbreakthroughs.com)
  4. Phone Numbers Put up a list of friend’s phone numbers next to the family telephone so that they can call friends during the summer to stay in touch.
  5. Reading Club Start a reading club where kids can meet and talk about the latest books. This would be particularly helpful for the working parent that needs to have their groups held later in the day to stay involved.

I am overwhelmed with the expectations that are put on parents these days. I think when you take one or two of the examples above like playdates and daily journal and put them together for a day that is more than enough.

For the parents that have older kids I would issue a word of caution. Allow your child to be in charge of their own social calendar. Learning how to find friends is an important skill. Finding playdates for your child ends. If they aren’t asking to make phone calls or have people over it may be a sign for problems that you will want to address.

Kids do not have to be occupied every second of the day. If they are having a slow day they still should keep the electronic devices turned off, slow it down and read a book. I’m now sure if our children know how to manage boredom. They are constantly entertained by cellphones and video games. This need for constant stimulation can be damaging, but that is another blog!

Contact me at my website at www.ourbreakthroughs.com. I would love to hear your comments. Share your ideas. If there is something that you would like to write about then let me know. We can discuss your audience!

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