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Use a Behavior Plan to Improve Child Behavior - It Works!

Updated on April 22, 2017
Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah is a retired educator, the mother of four grown daughters, seven grandchildren, and former Girl Scout leader and school volunteer.

Your Kids Can Learn to Behave and a Behavior Plan Can Teach Them How

Children can be taught to behave and have good manners.  A behavior plan is an important part of teaching your expectations.
Children can be taught to behave and have good manners. A behavior plan is an important part of teaching your expectations. | Source

Why Should You Use a Behavior Plan?

Does your preschooler lose his temper whenever he is the least bit frustrated? Have they developed a reputation for hitting, biting or throwing tantrums? Do your elementary age children refuse to complete their homework? Are they defiant?

If you are experiencing these behavior problems, or similar ones, you might want to try using a behavior plan with your kids. You’ll find that a behavior plan is far less stressful than all the begging, screaming, threatening and punishing you may have done in the past. Behavior plans have been used in the schools for years and it works for many families in their own homes, too. How does it work?

What Behavior Goals Do You Have?

Your first step will be to decide exactly what you want your child to do. Your goals have to be clear and easy to define. They also have to be realistic. For example, you cannot ask a child to be perfect from now on, or to never make a mistake, or never lose their temper again. Make a list of actual behavior that you want to see. For example, “Michael will share his toys with John,” or “Mary will spend one hour every evening sitting with me and working on her homework.”

This is also an opportunity to list specific chores you want them to complete without complaining. For example, you could list "Set Table," "Load Dishwasher," "Put Away Toys Before Bed," or "Make Bed in Morning." Make sure the chores are age appropriate and something your child knows how to do or can easily learn.

Keep Your Goals Positive

Make sure you write down the goals on your behavior plan in a way which sounds positive instead of negative. Instead of saying "Mary will not get angry" say “Mary will talk to others calmly when she is mad." Discuss the goals with your children, and make sure they understand what you expect. Post the behavior plan on your bulletin board or refrigerator. Put it somewhere where the kids can see it, and observe how they are doing.

Kids Love Rewards and Recognition

Magnetic Reward / Star / Responsibility / Behavior Chart for up to 3 Children. Rigid board 16" x 13" (40 x 32cm) with hanging loop
Magnetic Reward / Star / Responsibility / Behavior Chart for up to 3 Children. Rigid board 16" x 13" (40 x 32cm) with hanging loop

Children behave better when they know specifically what they should do and they can earn rewards for doing it. A behavior chart helps them keep track of how they are doing.


Set Up a Fun System of Rewards

After deciding on your goals, and writing them down, you will need to set up a system to reward good behavior. Your behavior plan needs to have a reward system. Some parents have had success by using pennies or tokens as a way for the child to see the rewards which they have earned. Every day that your child meets their goals, reward them with a predetermined number of tokens, such as five. Keep the tokens in a clear jar on the kitchen counter or some other visible area.

Let Your Kids Decide How to Use Their Rewards

Finally, you need to put together a list of appropriate ways your child can use their tokens. Let them help you write out the list. Your child's behavior will improve the most if the two of you work together to come up with rewards which the child wants to work towards. For example, with 10 tokens they might be allowed to stay up a few minutes later to watch their favorite TV show. You might even assign a value for each token. For example, each token could be worth a nickel. When they have earned 20 – 25, they can buy themselves a small toy or treat from the Dollar Store. For younger children, it is especially important that the rewards are something they want and they can earn quickly. For older children, you may want to help them choose some rewards which will also teach them deferred gratification. For example, if they earn enough tokens they can go to a movie or game arcade.

What to Expect From a Behavior Plan

Eventually, your childrens' behavior will change. The atmosphere in your home will improve, and your kids will enjoy the difference as much as you do. You won’t need to nag them as often. In fact, you may find that they will start nagging you to remind you of the tokens they have earned that day! Stick with it, don't bend the rules, and after a while, the new behavior will begin to be more natural for all of you! You really can have the peaceful family life you desire!

One type of reward which was popular in our family was gift certificates which could be used towards video games and other items our daughters wanted.

Your Child Can Work Towards Gift Certificates of $5 or More


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    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 2 years ago from Orange County, California

      One of my daughters teaches special education students and she introduced me to the idea of using behavior plans at home. They really can make a difference in a child's behavior.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      This is a simple way for parents to get control of their children's behavior without yelling and punishing them all the time.

    • ezzly profile image

      ezzly 3 years ago

      Excellent article especially useful for parents today, voted up!

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you, Au fait. This behavior management program really does work for most kids and, as you say, parents should seek counseling for those kids who are not helped after a reasonable length of time.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Great ideas for parents who have trouble managing their children, and helpful to teachers and people who want to be teachers eventually too.

      Sometimes children who have trouble staying with a program have other issues and their parents should seek counseling for them. I deal with special needs children everyday and most of them do their best, but sometimes there's a reason beyond the control of a few of them that prevents them from succeeding. Psychological disorders, and other issues, aren't always obvious to the untrained eye.

      This article is a great place for parents to start and hopefully it will be enough.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Behavior modification gives astonishing results. What a helpful Hub for teachers and parents. Thanks for sharing a fantastic Hub!

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I have a girl who is what was called a "fussy baby" when she was a baby. Now that she is 5 she is a high maintenance kid. She has constant energy which overloads both my husband and I who are both disabled and lack energy to keep up. She is fine in school and I've been trying this method for years. At firs it worked, but like everything it stops working...even though we've followed through.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Sharing this great article for people who may be at their wits end trying to manage their children. This should be a help if they follow through.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I really like this behavior plan! Stating positive instead of negative goals and rewarding good behavior with tokens are all very effective methods. I like that children can learn to improve on their own...very important to becoming responsible adults one day. Voted up and shared!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Good ideas. There are so many parents that could use this information.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      Thank you Au fait. I love how you worded that by saying "children learn to discipline their own behavior." That is a fabulous comment, and much appreciated.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Great plan for helping children learn to discipline their own behavior. Consistency is so important for the best results. Voted up and Useful!

    • TheMonk profile image

      TheMonk 6 years ago from Brazil

      I´m a father of a one year old boy, but I like to read a lot on how to educate him. Since I´m a nerd, I like to read as much as possible on a subject that is important to me. This hub gave me a lot of inspirations. Thank you!

    • liquidgranite profile image

      liquidgranite 6 years ago

      A very helpful hub for all the parents here.

    • bayoulady profile image

      bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      I'm an elementary teacher of 19 years,Deborah.I often thought how very pleasant for the parents it would have been if children had routines and behavior plans at home.It's not like it would be anything new,since that is what they were accustomed to all day at school. parents would say that their child refused to do this or that, and I'd be so amused. I can just see me letting them "refuse" to do work in my classroom. Didn't happen. Yet these same kids would go home to chaos, and create their share of it,too.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Schools have used this system for years, and behavior plans are now beginning to be used by parents, too. Hope this helps some young parents get off to a great start with their kids!

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Great ideas for parents. Our one daughter is grown, but great thoughts. GBY.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      We have used these type of systems many times in our family and have found them to be very successful. Great hub!

    • kafsoa profile image

      kafsoa 6 years ago

      Excellent hub, I like the reward system idea and letting children share in writing the list. This will encourage them to stick to follow the rules. Thanks for sharing. Rated up and useful!