Behavior management is a style of parent/child interactions that focuses on a positive and pleasant approach.  This approach will assist you in establishing interactions that will promote desirable behavior.  The methods presented are not something to be used occasionally.  For them to be fully effective, you must apply consistently across all areas of your child’s life – continually.  Even though implementation can be difficult at first, eventually these techniques will become second nature to you.

Even if you’ve tried some of the techniques in the past, it is important to try them again; they may have been less consistent last time you tried.  They may be taking awhile to be effective, but keep in mind the longer the behavior has been evident, the longer it will take to change it.  Behaviors can also change over time.  New ones appear in the place of old.  Those skills you learned in the past might be more applicable to what you find concerning today.

It is your job to focus on the behavior you’d like to increase or decrease, the more you learn about behavior management techniques, the more tools you’ll gather to help shape and promote the behavior you’d like to see more often.


* Any action that can be seen or heard
* Is observable
* Is measurable


* Your reaction to the situation
* Your interpretation of the situation
* Your expansion of the situation

 An effective method of examining behavior is to use the ABC model:

A=Antecedent: The event occurring before a behavior.  This event prompts that behavior.
:  Response to the events that can be seen or heard.
: The event(s) that follow(s) the behavior.  This effects whether the behavior will occur again.


  1. When the behavior is followed by a pleasant consequence, it is more likely to reoccur.
  2. When the behavior is followed by an unpleasant consequence, it is less likely to reoccur.

This isn’t to say we are going to punish our children when the behavior occurs.  The most effective method of decreasing the likelihood of reoccurrence of inappropriate behavior is to IGNORE.  (Having said that, never ignore self injurious or violent behavior!!!!  This is a time to call in the professionals. If your child experiences a sudden drastic troubling change in behavior or personality, immediately arrange for a full, physical checkup and a dental checkup.  After ruling out physical issues, you can consult your behaviorist, SLP, OT, etc.  A good tool to help determine potential cause of behavior is the Durand Motivational Assessment Scale.)

A child who is tantruming may be seeking attention.  If you respond to the tantrum (whether it’s to scold or even to comfort i.e. “it’s okay, there there”), the behavior is being rewarded by your reaction (even a negative reaction).  Wait for the tantrum to stop and then reinforce (reward) the quiet behavior verbally or with a small toy or treat.  If the tantrum goes on for a long time, reinforce when the child takes a breath.  Quickly say “I like how quiet you are being” during this time.  Eventually, the child will learn that s/he will gain your attention through more appropriate behavior, which is a pleasant consequence.

Always label the behavior you are praising.  “Good girl” is very vague; “I like how you picked up your jacket” is specific.

Never pause to give reinforcement (whether it be verbal or otherwise).  Let’s say John picked up his jacket after you’ve asked him to.  You take the time to finish reading that paragraph in your book.  John, starts to whine, you then give him a mini M & M.  John has learned that whining got him the treat, picking up the jacket is forgotten.  Same system applies to discrete trials in an IBI program.  Have reinforcers handy and reinforce immediately after the target behavior occurs.

* When you are starting out, chose one behavior that you would like to increase or decrease and work on that. 
* Choose reinforcers that are meaningful to the child, change them often.  Give these rewards in tiny amounts. 
* Be animated and enthusiastic.  Show your child how happy you are with them! 
* When starting out, you will reward the child every time the target behavior occurs, but quickly fade reinforcers by offering less and less. 
* Always pair edible, social or toy reinforcers with verbal praise; eventually you will be giving only verbal praise and your child will learn your pleasure is a reinforcer!

The difference between reinforcement and bribery is that reinforcement comes after a task is completed whereas bribery is offered before.  That is not to say that you can’t show your child the reinforcer he is working for during trials. In this case, it would be a visual cue.  If you offered a treat before even making a request, you would be using bribery.



Giving positive attention by:

* leaning toward and/or looking at your child
* smiling
* making a comment; asking a question
* conversation with your child
* joining in an activity


* activities: i.e. movies, zoo, going to the park
* tangible: i.e. toys, puzzles, and books
* food: i.e. treats, drinks (keep in mind that the treat might not be what you consider a treat – some kids like pickles, olives, small tastes of ketchup etc.)

Always pair non-social rewards with social!  When your child starts to accomplish the target behavior, ‘throw a party’ , get excited, break out the Cheesies and give plenty of hugs and tickles all at once.

Be sure the request you are making is very clear and concise.  Do not cloud the request with superfluous wording and do not make more than one request at the same time.

You can increase desirable behavior by modeling.  This is a process whereby an individual learns a skill through observation and imitation.

Set your child up for success.  If s/he is having a difficult day, be sure to end on a positive note.  You can do this by requesting a skill the child has already mastered, then deliver some nice verbal praise.  We call these mastered skills “high probs” because there is a high probability your child will get them right – thereby giving us a chance to reinforce the behavior, without giving in to demands for escape, tantruming etc.

August 12, 2002

(c) BBB Autism – June 2002


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