Guidelines for Behavioral Management

The following guidelines were designed to help you change some of your child’s inappropriate behaviors, as well as to help increase the possibilities that the child will behave more appropriately.

1.      The most important activity is to reinforce positively the child’s appropriate behavior.  To do this, you may tell the child that you like what he or she is doing, or you may smile, or even give the child a tidbit of something.  You should reinforce the child’s behavior as often as possible, and as soon as possible after the behavior has occurred.

2.      Try to use positive reinforcement more frequently than punishment.  Reinforce positively any appropriate behaviors that the child may be doing, however insignificant the behavior may seem to you.  As the child progresses you can space out the reinforcers, while at the same time reduce in frequency the punishments.

3.      It is very important to give the child some small punishment immediately after any and all inappropriate behaviors.  Use any type of punishment that you are comfortable with, but preferably not physical.  A good alternative is to send the child to a quiet area, with no social contacts or playthings, for one minute per year of age, up to a maximum of five minutes.  To use more than five minutes is unnecessary and even detrimental.  It is preferable not to use physical punishments or verbal threats, but rather, for example, you may firmly ask the child to sit quietly, or you may remove the child to a quiet area such as a corner.  Also, in punishing, be firm but not threatening or nurturing.  Talk to the child as little as possible, if at all, until after the punishment is over.  Do not negotiate or accept the postponement of the punishment, for example, for the child to go to the bathroom or to answer the phone.

4.      When you first start using these guidelines, it is important that you set up some sessions with the child in which you can practice giving positive reinforcements and punishments.  Enroll the child’s participation by telling him/her what you are doing, and by making it a game and emphasizing the reward part of it.  Also, during these practice sessions it is preferable to choose a relaxed time, especially when you are not responsible for other people or activities at the same time.

5.      Engage in lengthy or any other type of conversations with the child only when positive or neutral behaviors occur.  Do not attempt to explain to the child why he/she is misbehaving or what has happened until after the punishment procedure described above has been carried out.

6.      Do not tell the child that if he/she keeps on misbehaving you will give him/her a punishment.  Rather, proceed to administer the punishment as outlined above.

7.      Think fun!


© 1999 Angel Enrique Pacheco, Ph.D., C.Psych.  All Rights Reserved.



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