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What Behavior Modification Techniques Might Help My Child?

Discover 4 child behavior modification techniques and other practices that can improve your child’s behavior. Get details on HealthyPlace.

Behavior modification techniques can help your child change their behavior. The purpose is shaping their behavior patterns. Parents help stop undesirable actions and replace them with cooperative, prosocial ones. It’s a logical, methodical approach to shaping behavior step-by-step, and you can learn behavior modification techniques that might help your child.  

Behavior modification works for a variety of children. It is effective for kids with

That’s not all. It is also very helpful for any child. This method is used to shape any type of behavior so your child is successful at home, school, and wherever they go.

4 Central Behavior Modification Techniques That May Help Your Child

The core of behavior modification is comprised of four primary techniques:

  • Positive Reinforcement (adding a reward for good behavior)
  • Negative Reinforcement (removing something undesirable)
  • Positive Punishment (adding a consequence)
  • Negative Punishment (removing a privilege)

The concepts come from behaviorism in psychology. They are a bit confusing on their own, but they make much more sense with real-world examples. Let’s say your child wants to go to a friend’s house and you agree to take them over when they’ve completed chores. Twenty minutes later, your child says they’re ready to go. Upon a quick inspection, you find that none of the chores are done. Behavior modification seeks to change this behavior with one or more of the four main techniques. They work like this:

  • Positive reinforcement will consistently reward good behavior in the future with specific praise, high fives or fist bumps, and letting the child earn things, such as a trip to a friend’s house by completing the chores.
  • Negative reinforcement motivates kids to behave well by removing the undesirable effects of the misbehavior. If you decided to watch your child do chores and make them redo them if they’re not right, negative reinforcement would involve you no longer doing these things once your child begins to do chores correctly.
  • Positive punishment means adding a consequence, such as assigning extra chores to your child.
  • Negative punishment means removing a privilege; in this case, you might tell your child that they can’t hang out with their friend, even if they beg you to let them do the chores.

Other Child Behavior Modification Techniques

Using one or more of the four main techniques is essential in ending a child’s misbehavior. Other tools can be helpful, too, such as:

  • Reward charts
  • Token economy
  • Behavior contracts
  • Elimination

Reward charts and using a token economy lets kids earn stickers, stamps, or small tokens and turn them into a reward or privilege. These are examples of positive reinforcement. Some families use movie nights, game nights, a special dinner of the child’s choice, or other rewards that are meaningful to their child.

Behavior contracts work well with kids in mid- to upper elementary school and middle school. Kids are empowered and more willing to cooperate because they have input into their responsibilities and rules. Parents must uphold their end of the contract by following through on reinforcements.

When you use elimination for child behavior modification, you don’t react to your child when they misbehave. You deny them the attention and permission they want. When kids discover that parents won’t back down and will simply ignore their behavior, they eventually stop doing what you don’t like. You’ve eliminated their behavior.

Tips for Child Behavior Modification

These tips strengthen behavior modification techniques and help create success:

  • Focus on the behavior. Rather than looking for a child’s reason for misbehaving, child behavior modification involves attending only to the undesirable behavior.
  • Consistency is key. To make good behavior a habit requires persistence and repetition. Regardless of which techniques you choose to use, it’s important to use them every single time your child uses the behavior you want to stop.
  • Use lots of encouragement. Deliberately catch your child using good behavior and praise them for it. You can also reward them with simple little things to reinforce the behavior. (Note that behavior modification isn’t about buying kids things for being good. This is not desirable.)
  • Be clear. Talk to your child about the behaviors you expect.
  • Establish a daily routine. This helps kids know what’s expected of them and when.

Regarding which behavior modification techniques might best help your child, the answer isn’t absolute. The above techniques are all used in child behavior modification to help kids learn to meet expectations at home and school. Each child, each family, is different. Select your options based on your unique child and your own personality. Whatever you choose, stick with it consistently. With child behavior modification, your child will learn to meet your expectations.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, July 24). What Behavior Modification Techniques Might Help My Child?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/behavior-disorders/what-behavior-modification-techniques-might-help-my-child

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD