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Behavior Plans for a Problem Child

Children who prove continually problematic may behave better with the guidance of a behavior plan. The purpose of a behavior plan is not only to ensure that the child’s behavior stays within acceptable norms, but also to teach him how to behave properly in the future. By building a behavior plan yourself, or partnering with a medical professional to create this plan, you can increase the likelihood that your child modifies his behavior and learns the skills necessary to behave properly.

Plan Development

While the purpose of all behavior plans is the same, to stop negative behavior and promote positive, not all behavior plans are the same. Depending upon the purpose for your behavior plan, it could range from informal to highly structured. If the plan is one that you are creating for your private use, it will likely be relatively informal, as there is no need to share this plan with others. However, if the plan is intended for use in the school setting, or created by a medical professional, it will likely be highly structured, as it is easier to share this information with others if the plan is highly detailed. If the plan is intended for use in the educational setting, or created by a doctor, it will likely include measurable goals, as goals of this type are necessary to measure effectiveness.

Benefits of Rewards

In most cases, the crux of a behavior plan is not punishment but, instead, rewards. It is often more effective to modify behavior by rewarding children, reports AtHealth. These rewards can range anywhere from simple praise to tangible prizes for appropriate behavior. The severity of your child’s behavior issues will likely determine how often you need to reward the child and what behavior deserves a reward. If the child’s behavior is severely deviant, you may need to reward him even more often than you would a child who exhibits minor misbehavior, as these severely deviant behaviors are more difficult to break.

Graduated Consequences

While rewarding good behavior is often most effective, it is still necessary to punish misbehavior. Most behavior plans include a graduated consequence plan, reports AtHealth. By using a graduated consequence plan, or consequences that increase in severity with each recurrence of the misbehavior, you can increase the likelihood that the punishment fits the crime. It is also easier to avoid handing out lofty punishments with which you can’t follow through by using a system of this type.

School Behavior Plans

In some cases, children are legally entitled to a school behavior plan. If your child is diagnosed with a behavioral disorder, he is guaranteed protection under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Children who fall into this group of protected youths receive special education services not necessarily for a mental challenge, but for help with their behavioral difficulties. In most states, children who are protected under IDEA are given an individualized behavior plan and are protected from some more severe consequences, like suspension from school.

Scaffolded Approach

The ultimate goal of any behavior plan should be to change the behavior to the point that a plan is not necessary. If you are currently using a behavior plan to help your child, you should revisit this plan often and gradually make it less invasive. For example, if under your current plan your child gets a sticker every day that he doesn’t hit someone, and after five stickers he gets a trip to the movies, you should increase the number of stickers required when you revisit the plan. By doing this, you can increase the likelihood that not hitting becomes ingrained in him and not, instead, something that you need to reward.

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