Behaviour Management at Home
One of the biggest challenges parents face is managing difficult or defiant behavior on the part of children. Whether they’re refusing to put on their shoes or throwing full-blown tantrums, you can find yourself at a loss for an effective way to respond.
For parents at their wits end, behavioral therapy techniques can provide a roadmap to calmer, more consistent ways to manage problem behaviors and offers a chance to help children develop the developmental skills they need to regulate their own behaviors.
ABC’s of Behavior Management at home
To understand and respond effectively to problematic behavior, you have to think about what came before it, as well as what comes after it. There are three important aspects to any given behavior:
- Antecedents: Preceding factors that make a behavior more or less likely to occur. Another, more familiar term for this is triggers. Learning and anticipating antecedents is an extremely helpful tool in preventing misbehavior.
- Behaviors: The specific actions you are trying to encourage or discourage.
- Consequences: The results that naturally or logically follow a behavior. Consequences may be positive or negative and would affect the likelihood of a behavior recurring and the more immediate the consequence, the more powerful it is.
The first step in a good behavior management plan is to identify target behaviors. These behaviors should be specific (so everyone is clear on what is expected), observable, and measurable (so everyone can agree whether or not the behavior happened).
An example of poorly defined behavior is “acting up,” or “being good.” A well-defined behavior would be running around the room (bad) or starting homework on time (good).
Consequences that are more effective begin with generous attention to the behaviors you want to encourage.
Positive attention for positive behaviors: Giving your child positive reinforcement for being good helps maintain the ongoing good behavior. Positive attention enhances the quality of the relationship, improves self-esteem, and feels good for everyone involved. Positive attention to brave behavior can also help attenuate anxiety, and help kids become more receptive to instructions and limit-setting.
Ignoring actively: This should be used ONLY with minor misbehaviors -NOT aggression and NOT very destructive behavior. Active ignoring involves the deliberate withdrawal of attention when a child starts to misbehave – as you ignore, you wait for positive behavior to resume. You want to give positive attention as soon as the desired behavior starts. By withholding your attention until you get positive behavior you are teaching your child what behavior gets you to engage.
Reward menus: Rewards are a tangible way to give children positive feedback for desired behaviors. A reward is something a child earns, an acknowledgement that she’s doing something that’s difficult for her. Rewards are most effective as motivators when the child can choose from a variety of things: a special treat, etc. This offers the child agency and reduces the possibility of a reward losing its appeal over time. Rewards should be linked to specific behaviors and always delivered consistently.
Time outs: Time outs are one of the most effective consequences parents can use but also one of the hardest to do correctly. Here’s a quick guide to effective time out strategies.
Be clear: Establish which behaviors will result in time outs. When a child exhibits that behavior, make sure the corresponding time out is relatively brief and immediately follows a negative behavior.
Be consistent: Randomly administering time outs when you’re feeling frustrated undermines the system and makes it harder for the child to connect behaviors with consequences.
Set rules and follow them: During a time out, there should be no talking to the child until you are ending the time out. Time out should end only once the child has been calm and quiet briefly so they learn to associate the end of time out with this desired behavior.
- Return to the task: If time out was issued for not complying with a task, once it ends the child should be instructed to complete the original task. This way, kids won’t begin to see time outs as an escape strategy.
Reference: Child Mind Institute