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Behavior Modification in Children

Updated on April 21, 2011

Behavior Modification in Children - Getting Kids on Board

The whole point of behavior modification in children is helping your child to actually change, for his or her benefit.

By far, accomplishing this goal works best if you can help your child see for himself the benefits of his proposed change.

Impossible? Not at all. Challenging, certainly, but in my experience, far easier than continuing to nag and get nowhere!

Trust me. When your child decides that changing his behavior is in HIS favor, everything changes. The trick is to get him to put his personal stamp on the behavior modification project.

Behavior Charts
Behavior Charts

Making behavior modification in children work.

Make them the Masters of Their Fate

Johnny wants to play ball with his friends. Due to his misbehavior over the past few days, you must say no.

He throws a tantrum, whatever age he is. You stand firm since that is your job as his parent.

Once he's calm and able to listen again, you sit with him and explain how things are. He can play with his friends at the earliest convenience as soon as he behaves ________ (you fill in the blank). Be calm, reasonable and clear. Use age appropriate language and understand you will need to repeat this conversation many times. (Note: using behavior charts can help make this process more tangible and accelerate the success rate.)

Explain to Johnny that you want him to grow up to be in control of himself and his actions and your job is to help him do this very well. To that end, you will grant privileges to him when he practices these new responsibility skills. Have a test scenario ready to go so he can get started on this adventure. Some kids get it quickly, some take years.

That's fine. Behavior modification in children doesn't happen overnight nor should it. You are training - guiding - your child to a better understanding of himself. You are truly mentoring him in the discipline of self-control. This may take some time, but if you can get the notion to take hold, you will find you have an able negotiator on your hands, glad to align himself with your direction in return for what he wants, as long as it is within reason and your family guidelines.

behavior modification in children
behavior modification in children

Child Behavior Modification - How Far Do We Listen?

Balance is always the key.

Teaching your kids to be in charge of their own behavior does NOT mean endlessly reasoning with them. Anyone who has parented very long knows that many kids - if not most - will take advantage of a parent's well-intentioned desire to listen to and respect their child.

Listening and respect are good things but they can be used against you, Mom or Dad. Be on guard for this subtle shift in behavior!

What we are really talking about here is balance. In the calm moments of life, employ listening and allowing your child to tell you what they need to say.

In the middle of an argument or in a moment of childhood or teenage misbehavior, however, things must change drastically. That is your "take charge" moment as your child's parent. My experience with my four kids has been that children - of all ages - really DO want you to be in charge. There is tremendous security in knowing someone who cares about them personally and has more experience is leading the way.

And remember, leading does NOT mean yelling, screaming, nagging, or abuse of any kind. Be firm and exercise your own self-control and if your child wants to escalate the argument, don't! State the boundary and walk away.

Want a more concrete example? See my report on behavior modification in children - How to Get'em Up in the Morning.

Key Point to help with behavior modification!

The other side of this coin is that when life is calm at your home, intentionally seek out your child just to listen to her. Give her ten or fifteen minutes of your undivided attention. Do this daily for two weeks and see the changes that can result.

Child Behavior Modification Links

Behavior modification in children means doing a little strategic planning and resource gathering, like anything else you want to do well.

Articles on Child Behavior Modification Strategies

Childhood behavior modification - what can we learn? - What do you think?

This video offers some good food for thought. Positive instruction is always good, but let's face it, sometimes it just doesn't work! They differentiate between "telling" and "asking" in this video; frankly I think we need both in parenting and behavior modification strategies.

What have you tried as a parent that's been successful? Or can you steer anyone away from ideas that just don't work well? Behavior modification is not an exact science plus kids are all different. That means there is plenty of room for variety in our parenting efforts.

Childhood behavior modification - Taking it one day at a time.

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      7 years ago

      Hello! I´m a psychologist, quite familiar with this techiques and a big fan of them in very ways, not only for ther applications with kids, as you mention, but this kind of plans can also be applied to an organizational field. I also recommend logotherapy as a tool and of course some Gestaltic techiniques to compliment this particular behavioral method. Great job! Thank you very much! xD


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