For most parents, child behaviour never becomes an issue until a child begins to act inappropriately. When this occurs, parents must find ways to increase instances of appropriate behaviour and decrease instances of negative behaviour. Behaviour modification is one method of doing just that.
What Is Behaviour Modification?
Behaviour modification is an umbrella term that is often used to describe a programme designed to change behaviour patterns by offering positive reinforcements for appropriate/good behaviours and negative consequences for inappropriate/bad behaviours.
How Does Behaviour Modification Work?
Behaviour modification works by conditioning children to expect positive reactions or reinforcement to appropriate behaviour and to expect to be disciplined for inappropriate behaviour. Throughout this process parents must be sure to place all of the attention on behaviours, however, and not the child so that no child begins to believe that (s)he is inherently good or bad.
Why Does Behaviour Modification Work?
Behaviour modification works by appealing to children’s preferences for pleasure over “pain”. Children naturally enjoy positive attention and will seek to make adults happy with their actions. At the same time, most children do not enjoy being ignored or disciplined and rarely actively court these reactions.
Which Behaviours Can Be Addressed in Behaviour Modification?
Most child behaviours can be addressed in a behaviour modification programme. Thumb sucking, bed wetting, breath holding, picky eating and temper tantrums are common childhood behaviours that can be addressed through such a programme. However, behaviours should only be addressed if they are inappropriate for a child’s age or stage of development, and only one behaviour at a time should be addressed. Once a targeted behaviour has noticeably lessened, then another behaviour can be selected to modify.
What are Positive Reinforcements?
Positive reinforcements can be almost anything. A smile, verbal praise, a hug or extra attention are often powerful reinforcements that stimulate children to continue appropriate behaviours. Other possible positive reinforcements might be stickers or stars that can be collected for a larger reward. Tangible rewards are often good motivators at the start, as a child can connect good behaviour to something concrete that they can physically enjoy. Rewarding children with sweets or fizzy drinks, however, should be avoided.
What are Negative Consequences?
Negative consequences are usually a period of ignoring a child’s behaviour (and often therefore the child him/herself) or a type of discipline. The Naughty Step, Time Out and/or Taking Away Privileges can all be used as negative consequences in a behaviour modification programme.
Who Can Design A Behaviour Modification Programme?
Simple behaviour modification programmes such as giving a child a star for making his/her bed or taking a star away for calling a sibling a name can be designed by parents, but if behaviour modification is being used for children who have been diagnosed with a behavioural disorder then it is best to involve an expert. Usually whoever diagnoses a behavioural disorder will work with parents to design an appropriate behaviour modification programme for the child.
Child behaviour modification works by offering children positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviour and negative consequences for inappropriate behaviour. Such a programme can be designed for almost any behaviour, including thumb sucking, bed wetting, breath holding, picky eating and temper tantrums. Behaviour modification can also be used to treat behavioural disorders when programmes are designed with the input of professionals. Parents should consult GPs, educational experts or child psychologists for further information.