Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Behavior plans, reward plans, success plans, extrinsic motivators… whatever you want to call them-can be a very powerful tools if utilized correctly! They can also lead to further frustration for the child, the parents and professionals involved if not implemented and created appropriately. By skipping any of the following key steps, you can accidently build on a child’s already faltering self esteem and your own disappointment.
1. Determine what a child is actually capable of!!!
Sounds simple, but this one has many levels. Taking a child that is misbehaving and putting them on a plan- whether using an award approach or a punitive one is totally useless if you don’t stop and think about why the behavior is happening and what the child is capable of. If a child is struggling with underlying issues- lack of impulse control, poor language skills… simply communicating what you want them to change is not enough! You will have to provide the tools for them to improve the behavior. If you skip this step, even the most positively worded reward system will end up being punitive as the child disappoints you and themselves over and over again by failing!
2. Determine the “why” behind the negative behavior?
You may choose not to believe me, but children don’t really want to misbehave and disappoint all the adults around them. Often there are underlying issues like a lack of impulse control, limited language and communications skills and others. Remember Behavior is ALWAYS Communication! What needs does the child have that are not being met, what are their frustrations…
3. The child MUST be included!
Yes your powers of observation, talking to other professionals (ie. Your child’s teacher, coach, camp director) is all helpful, but If you are not including your child in the process along the way, they are less likely to be successful. Including your child in the problem solving process helps them to have “buy in” and work hard with you in implementing the solution. It empowers them!! It’s a great time to remind them that they have many amazing strengths-that you are going to use in helping them modify the more undesirable behaviors. This is also an opportunity to teach them self reflection skills, what do they think the issue is? What do they think may help them do better? What kind of support do they want? How do they want it? Who do they want to help them?
4. Bring in a 3rd party- as mediator- the general contractor of your “behavior renovation project”!
An experienced “Behavioral Coach” can help parents, children and professionals involved come to a mutually agreed upon solution. Behavioral Coaches are skilled at seeing all sides of the struggle and can take the emotion out of it, something a parent can’t do when helping their own child.