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ABC’s of Behavior Management at Home

Kids’ difficult behavior can be a huge challenge for parents. But by using techniques from behavioral therapy, parents can change the way kids react to the things that set them off.

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 — positive or negative — affect the likelihood of a behavior recurring. And the more immediate the consequence, the more powerful it is.

The first step is picking specific behaviors to target. Often, antecedents are things that parents themselves do. For example, you might notice that your child tends to have a tantrum when you ask them to switch activities. Or you might see that your child doesn’t follow instructions if it’s something they don’t want to do.

The goal is to help children improve their behavior by using more helpful antecedents. For instance, a positive antecedent that helps kids with transitions is counting down to them so they have time to adjust. To help kids follow instructions, you might try giving them choices (“Do you want a shower after dinner or before?”), and not asking too much when your child is hungry, tired, or distracted.

When kids act out in a minor way, ignoring it usually works best. And if you do use punishment, it should happen right away and happen the same way every time. Punishments like yelling and spanking can actually reinforce misbehavior because they give the child attention. It usually works better to use a short time-out, which takes your attention away from the child.

Most importantly, give your child clear, specific rules about what is okay and what isn’t. And give them lots of praise when they behave well. In most cases of minor misbehavior, waiting for your child do something positive (like stop yelling) and then immediately giving them positive attention will help them learn to behave better over time.

Excerpted from “Managing Problem Behavior at Home” from the Child Mind Institute. Read the full article to learn how to identify target behaviors, embrace antecedents that can help manage potentially problematic behaviors, and create effective consequences.

Source: Child Mind Institute | Managing Problem Behavior at Home, https://childmind.org/article/managing-problem-behavior-at-home | ©2021 Child Mind Institute, Inc.

Do you need someone to talk to? To schedule an evaluation or to get advice about your child’s challenges, call or email a CHC Care Coordinator at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org CHC teletherapy services are available now.

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