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

Updated on February 12, 2019
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

Multi-Purpose Magnetic Reward Star Chart - Durable 40x30cm Board for Behaviour & Task Tracking
Multi-Purpose Magnetic Reward Star Chart - Durable 40x30cm Board for Behaviour & Task Tracking
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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Deborah-Diane


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