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author's top 10
tips on behavior management
|As a Pediatric Behavioral
Therapist, I am often asked what techniques work best for correcting
problem behavior. Here are my top ten suggestions:
Structure and Routine
In order for children to organize and control their own
behavior, they need models of how to do that. Providing a clear structure
to the daily routine is one of the most important ways of teaching this
simply concept that will actually help children control their own
It is not so much what you do as long as you do it
consistently. This is because behavior that has been corrected
intermittently (e.g., some of the time but not all of the time) is the
most difficult behavior to change.
This means not reacting emotionally to problem behavior.
No yelling. No threatening. No spanking. Children often act out for
attention, or, to a reaction out of you. If you respond in a cool,
calm, controlled manner, the child doesnt get the attention or reaction
they want and the problem behavior will often extinguish itself.
When a child misbehaves, the consequence for the misbehavior
should be related to the actual incident. If the child broke something in
anger, then the child should be made to clean it up and repay the damage
in some way. The child could work extra hours to help pay the cost of the
damaged item, lend a favorite toy to a friend whom the child hurt, or
sacrifice dessert to a sibling.
Teach Respect for Authorities
One of the most common mistakes I see today is children being treated as
the center of the universe with far more power and control than they want
or need. This causes the child to become narcisstic and self-centered.
Children need to be taught when they are young that parents are in charge,
as are teachers, police officers, and others in elderly or authority
positions. Children should be taught to say Yes Sir, or No Maam, as
well as to open doors for seniors and to obey the directions of elders.
Limit TV & Electronic Games
Children learn by modeling others. Children who watch violent programs
and games, including offensive or discourteous cartoon characters pick up
those behaviors and use them with others. They also are more immune to
offensive behavior and violence in the real world.
Chores help the child learn ownership and pride in their environment and
in their own contributions to society. Even two-year-olds can help dust,
haul out trash, or put away their toys. As the child ages, chores at
school, church, and in the community are essential for teaching them
responsibility for self and others.
Absence of Threat
Social skills must be taught, just like reading, writing,
and math. We would not think about teaching reading to a child by
threatening, yelling, or spanking the child, yet, we often do so when
teaching social skills. A child learns best and fastest when in a safe,
Children are told what to do, what to say, when to do or say it from the
moment they get up in the morning until the moment they go to bed.
Offering them choices whenever possible, such as on what to wear, will
give them a little control while helping cut down on power struggles on
more important issues.
Think about how you want you child to behave and then expect your
child to act in that manner. Children will only achieve to the highest
level expected of them so if they are expected to not learn or to not
obey, they probably will not.
||These 10 tips make up the core structure of any
effective behavior management plan, whether the home, school, or community.
About the Author:
Catherine Swanson Cain, PhD, LMFT provides counseling and therapy to
families of young children with behavior problems or mental health
disabilities. She also provides consultation and training to educators,
child care providers, and professionals on a variety of behavioral health
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