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Behavior Management: Changing Your Child's Behavior for the Better!

By Chris Theisen

Behavior Management

Rules for Adult Children Living at Home

Behavior management is a term used to describe the process of maintaining order through the use of various strategies and/or techniques. It is often employed by parents and/or teachers in an effort to manage a child's or student's behavior.

Behavior management comes in many forms and its success is dependent upon a number of factors, such as: parenting (or teaching) style, the level of perceived authority of the parent or teacher, the child's personality or temperament, group dynamics, the effectiveness of the specific strategy being used, and many other factors.

In order for behavior management to be successful, there are a few simple steps that I recommend:

Step one: Identify the problem. The first step towards fixing any problem is to first identify it. Once you know the problem (or "target behavior") you can then focus your attention on addressing or "fixing" that behavior.

Step two: Consider the causes of the problem. Is the child over-stimulated? Is he or she acting out to get attention? Does this child have a medical or psychiatric diagnosis or disorder that might be at the root of the misbehavior? Is this a child with anger problems or control issues? Does the problem behavior only present itself in specific situations or around another specific child? Maybe the "cause" is unknown. It is not essential to behavior management that you know or understand the actual cause (or causes) of the problem... but it certainly increases the likelihood of success.

Step three: List potential solutions to the problem. Brainstorm specific ideas or interventions that might potentially work to change or "manage" the child's misbehavior. For instance, if negative attention-seeking seems to be the cause, then maybe there is a way for the child to attract attention in a more positive manner. If the child appears to have a medical or psychiatric problem, then perhaps medication is the answer. If the child responds well to high structure, then maybe a behavior contract, behavior chart, or other such intervention might prove beneficial. If necessary, seek input from other sources such as teachers, counselors, or a mental health professional. The internet is also a great resource...try looking up the specific behavior you are trying to change and see if there are any good behavior management techniques that might help to eliminate that particular behavior.

Step four: Choose and implement the solution that is most likely to work. If it works, then great! If not, then it is time to try something different. Be sure to give the intervention enough time to work. Children will often "rebel" anytime a new behavior management strategy is put in place. They want your intervention to fail so that you will give up, meaning they can go back to acting the way they are used to acting. Stand your ground! Be firm and persistent!

Some common terms often associated with behavior management are:

Positive Reinforcement: the act of presenting a pleasant or desirable stimulus after a specific behavior in an effort to decrease the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Negative Reinforcement: the act of removing an aversive or unpleasant stimulus after a specific behavior in an effort to increase the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Positive Punishment: the act of presenting an aversive or unpleasant stimulus after a specific behavior in an effort to decrease the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Negative Punishment: the act of removing a pleasant or desirable stimulus after a specific behavior in an effort to decrease the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Notice that the purpose of "reinforcement" is to increase the likelihood of the behavior occurring again, while the purpose of punishment is to decrease the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Also notice that "positive" means that a stimulus is added, while "negative" means that a stimulus is removed.

Behavior management can be as simple as communicating more effectively with your child, changing the way you structure your child's environment, using privileges and consequences that are more effective, or simply utilizing a behavior management tool (such as a behavior contract, behavior chart, or token economy) to facilitate change.

If you are interested in checking out ParentCoachPlan.com's behavior management tools, then click here to see them. Other excellent resources can be found at Behavior-contracts.com and at TeenBehaviorcontracts.com.

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