How to Create an Effective Behavior Management Plan

Whether your child has been hitting someone at school lately or he's been refusing to brush hit teeth, you need a solid plan to address behavior problems. A good behavior management plan will ensure that you and all of your child's other caregivers respond to behavior problems in a consistent manner.

A behavior management can also help you find more effective consequences and better incentives that will motivate your child to change. Here are four steps that will help you create a behavior management plan that will change your child's behavior.


Identify the Problem Behaviors

Create a behavior plan to eliminate misbehavior.
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Before you start addressing your child’s behavioral problems, it is important to clearly identify which behaviors are the most problematic. Sometimes parents say things like “Johnny is naughty.”

Naughty means different things to different people so it is important to describe the specific behavior you want to change. A clearer explanation of the problem behavior might be "Johnny screams whenever he's told to do something he doesn't want to do.

Your child may exhibit more than one problem behavior that you want to address. If this is the case, start by choosing three that you want to address first. You might pick the ones that are the most disruptive or the ones that are causing him the biggest problems.

For example, if your 4-year-old bites, whines, throws temper tantrums, refuses to pick up his toys, and gets out of bed repeatedly, you might decide to start with biting, getting out of bed, and temper tantrums because those behaviors affect other people the most.


Pick Effective Discipline Tools

Decide on the best discipline strategies for your child.
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There are many different discipline strategies that can be used to address the same behavior. The type of discipline strategy will be most effective depends on your circumstances.

While one child may respond well to getting his favorite toy taken away for the day, another child may respond best to a time-out. Consider your child's temperament and the strategies that you're most likely able to follow through with on a consistent basis.

It's also important to implement positive reinforcement for good behavior. Praise, a sticker chart, or a token economy system may motivate your child to follow the rules. Catch your child being good and provide consistent positive reinforcement.


Write Down the Plan

Write down your child's behavior management plan.
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Writing down your plan will increase the chances that you'll follow through. It will also ensure that you're prepared to deal with behavior problems when they arise.

Outline how you'll reinforce good behavior. For example, every time your child plays nicely with his friend, praise his healthy choices.

Then, decide how you'll respond when he exhibits the problem behavior you're working on. For example, place him in a brief time-out each time he kicks or hits.

Explain the plan to your child in terms he can understand. Say something like, "From now on, if you bite anyone, you'll have to sit in the hallway for a time-out." If a time-out is new for your child, you can further explain what time-out entails.


Review the Plan With Other Caregivers

Talk to other caregivers about your child's behavior management plan.
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When all of a child's caregivers follow the same discipline plan, behavior change is likely to occur much faster. Try to get teachers, daycare providers, grandparents, non-custodial parents, and any other adults who play a large role in your child's life on board.

When all the adults use similar language, that can also be effective. For example, if all the caregivers say, "Teeth are for chewing," as a reminder when your child bites, the message will sink in faster.

Give copies of the written plan to the other caregivers. If they're willing to weigh-in on what works and what doesn't be open to changing the plan as needed.

Communicate with one another about how your child is doing. Talk about any changes you're seeing and discuss how your discipline strategies are working.

Consistency can be the key to a good behavior plan. If everyone can follow through with consequences each and every time your child misbehaves, your child's behavior problems are likely to improve.

Revisit the plan as needed. When your child's behavior improves, you may want to pick another behavior to address.

If your child's behavior isn't responding well to the plan, change your strategy. Try a different consequence or work on teaching your child new skills. A fresh approach may help put an end to stubborn misbehavior.

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