Please note the following tips have been pulled from a variety of strategies and are intended to give you ideas. There is no one size fits all approach. Parents and nannies dealing with severe situations should consult a Certified Behavior Analyst, Psychologist or other relevant professional.
Punishment versus Reinforcement
Remember, a behavior is a child's response or lack of response to something. There are behaviors you will want to encourage and behaviors you will discourage.
Punishment decreases the frequency of a behavior.
There are two types of punishment.
1. Positive punishment is adding a negative consequence after the behavior.
Cara pushed her sister. Cara was sent to time-out (aversive stimulus).
2. Negative punishment is removing something the child enjoys.
Cara pushed her sister. Cara lost her favorite toy for the day (reinforcing stimulus removed).
Reinforcement increases the frequency of a behavior.
There are two types of reinforcement.
1. Positive reinforcement refers to adding something pleasant.
You give a child a sticker for going potty in the toilet.
2. Negative reinforcement refers to removing something unpleasant.
Sammy takes out the trash to stop his mom from hounding him about it.
1. Ask all caregivers about their observations.
Define the problem behavior in specific, observable and measurable terms.
2. Pay attention to the antecedent!
What happens right before the behavior? Notice the environment, the people around, objects or toys, the child’s internal feelings/thoughts/state of being, your own behavior etc.
3. What are the consequences?
Different consequences can affect whether or not the behavior will happen again. You might be unknowingly reinforcing the problem behavior! For example, if you send a child to her room when she yells at her sister, you may be giving her what she wants which is to get away from her sister! The goal is to minimize reinforcement of the problem behavior and teach replacement behaviors. Consequences (reinforcers and punishments) should be delivered with in 10 seconds of the behavior.
4. What is the child is trying to communicate?
What are his/her needs and wants? Is the child’s behavior helping them fulfill their needs/wants? Is he frustrated because he doesn't understand the directions of his homework? Does she want more time to play at park? Does he want your attention?
5. Use proactive strategies.
Modify tasks. If a child is throwing a tantrum when she is unable to successfully play a game, simplify it.
Make changes in the setting. If a child isn’t completing homework when his siblings are around, create a quiet homework space.
Teach routines and expectations. Create a visible calendar, post simple house rules and review them regularly; teach the rules.
Prepare Children for Transitions. 10 more minutes of free time, 5 more minutes of free time, 1 more minute...
Change the schedule. If a child is resisting brushing her teeth before bed in an attempt to stay up longer, ask her to brush teeth after dinner and provide a reward.
Provide more choices. If a child is refusing to eat his vegetables, give him 3 options to choose from.
6. Positive Reinforcement.
Celebrate the desired behavior with a reward that is meaningful to the child. This could be a high-five, a sticker, a happy dance, free time etc. You are aiming to increase reinforcement of a new replacement behavior while decreasing reinforcement of a negative behavior. Again, reinforcers should be given within 10 seconds of the behavior.
7. Create a positive climate.
A good rule of thumb is to provide 4 positive interactions for every 1 correction.
Redirect a child's attention to provide opportunities for a positive interaction. For example, if a child is distracted during homework time you might praise the work she did on an earlier problem.
9. Ignore the Behavior.
If you choose to ignore a behavior, it might get worse before it gets better. A child that has been crying to get out of something she doesn't want to do may begin screaming before this problem behavior decreases. If you try ignoring a problem behavior, it's important to also teach positive communication and social skills to replace it. This gives you an opportunity to reinforce the desired behavior.
10. Noncontingent Reinforcement.
This just means that you can give the child access to the thing that is reinforcing the negative behavior at different times through out the day when negative behavior isn't happening. The child will be less likely to use the negative behavior as a strategy because he already has access to what he wants. Maybe this means 5 minutes of solo play time sprinkled through out the day.
The above chart is from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Positive Behavioral Support
Positive Behavioral Support
Set of research-based strategies used to increase quality of life and decrease problem behavior by teaching new skills and making changes in a person's environment.
Applied Behavior Analysis
Therapy based on the science of learning and behavior that helps us understand how behavior works, how behavior is affected by the environment and how learning takes place.
Functional Behavior Assessment
Gathers information and uses it to create a plan to help your child behave in more appropriate ways
Behavior Intervention Plan
This is a plan that’s designed to teach and reward positive behaviors. A BIP is based on the FBA.
Consequence interventions are used to minimize reinforcement for negative behavior and increase reinforcement for desirable behavior.
Environmental modifications are used to change conditions in the setting that prompt the behavior. The idea is to identify factors that are reinforcing the behavior and then change the environment so that the factor no longer prompts the behavior.
The use of punishment as a consequence has decreased. Research shows relying on punishment without positive interventions can lead to more problem behavior. Knowing why a child engages in a certain behavior can help you modify things that trigger the behavior and also teach new replacement skills so the child can get the outcome they desire.