Behavior Management

How to Manage Challenging Behaviors in Children

Try this…

  1. Recognize behaviors as a form of communication: Child bites-he is frustrated but does not have the language to tell you
  2. Praise positive behaviors: “I love how you are sitting in your chair with your feet on the floor”
  3. Be direct and specific: “Put your feet on the floor”
  4. Ignore unwanted behavior (when possible)
  5. Clearly state expectations before behavior occurs: “When we are in the hallway I want you to walk”
  6. Provide choices and allow child to feel in control: “Would you like to read a book first or practice your sounds?”
  7. Follow through with what you say: “If you throw the cards on the floor again, you will not get to take a turn” *child throws cards on the floor* You can pick up the cards instead of taking a turn
  8. Make a statement: “Say your word 3 times”
  9. Use natural consequences: “You decided to throw all the cards on the floor, now you have to pick them up instead of taking a turn playing the game.”
  10. Acknowledge how the child is feeling/reduce demand – “Say ____ 5 times” *child throws cards on the floor* “I see that you are frustrated and I know it is hard work practicing your sounds. After you pick up the cards lets say our word 2 times instead of 5.

Instead of…

  1. Believing a child is just poorly behaved: *Child bites- results in thinking that the parents do not know how to discipline their child
  2. Punishing negative behaviors: “Don’t put your feet on the table”
  3. Using vague statements: “Be good” or “don’t do that”
  4. Focusing on negative behavior and drawing attention to it
  5. Waiting for behavior to occur, then stating expectation: *child running in the hallway “Walk!”
  6. Not allowing child to have any input or control: “We are going to read a book and then work on our sounds” then child replies with “No! I don’t want to read a book!”
  7. Providing empty consequences: Telling the child you are going to skip their turn or take something away if a behavior continues and not actually doing it
  8. Asking a question: “Are you ready to say your word?” and then the child responds with “no”
  9. Providing consequences that do not match the behavior: “You threw the cards on the floor, so you do not get a sticker today”
  10. Eliminate the task: “You threw all the cards on the floor so you can go sit in time out” (child gets out of completing task)
This handout was created specifically for dealing with picky eaters or behaviors that occur at mealtime. These tips can be adapted to any setting.
✔️ Page 1: color-coded chart with step-by-step strategies, tips, and wording suggestions
✔️ Page 2: information about positive reinforcement techniques with detailed explanations, examples, and specific statements parents can use to reinforce desired behavior

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