How Do I Help My Child Have Appropriate Behavior?


How Do I Help My Child Have Appropriate Behavior?

Children display inappropriate behaviors for different reasons.  Sometimes children exhibit these behaviors because they want attention.  Other times the child may not know how to appropriately respond to a situation and will act inappropriately instead. 

Examples of inappropriate behavior:

  • Slamming doors, growling, kicking things, saying inappropriate words, punching people or objects, self-destructive behavior like biting or cutting
  • Refusing to participate in new situations, acting shy, having a “meltdown”

If your child is displaying these behaviors, there are ways to help them respond to situations in a more acceptable way.  The following are a list of ideas to help your child demonstrate more suitable behavior.

  • Social Stories
    • These are short stories that help a child get used to new or consistently difficult situations such as starting school, changing teachers, or going to the doctor. They are written from the perspective of the child and talk about the situation the child is going to experience, the inappropriate behavior that the child has displayed in the past, the expected appropriate behavior, and the result of either engaging in the appropriate or inappropriate behavior.
  • Token-Reward System
    • This system is used to reward positive behavior and also to punish negative behavior. At the beginning, the action must be immediate to be most effective. For example, if a child has displayed proper behavior at the grocery store, he will receive a sticker (token) on his behavior chart that can be exchanged for a prize (reward) once he gets home. The same is true for inappropriate behavior. A sticker should be removed from the chart. After the child begins to understand the system, it is a good idea to increase the amount of tokens needed to receive a reward so that the child learns that
  • Picture Schedule
    • A picture schedule can be used to help children visualize what is expected of them. Children will be able to see what it is they will be doing and this will help avoid meltdowns and assist in good transitioning between situations and locations.
  • Timers
    • Using a timer will provide your child with limits and boundaries and she will know how long she is expected to remain at a task or be allowed to participate in free time. This provides structure, which is very important in the plan to improve behavior.
A structured routine is very important to help children know what behavior is expected of them. Never laugh at or excuse inappropriate behavior as this hinders the child from obtaining the social skills they will need to participate in their various environments such as school and home. Keep eye-contact with your child while instructing them on appropriate behavior and maintain a neutral facial expression. Do not allow them to see you getting emotional or angry but also do not smile and laugh at their inappropriate behavior. They need to know that if they misbehave, consequences will follow. This structure will be very beneficial in helping your child conquer inappropriate behaviors.

Bryan, L.C & Gast, D. L. (2000). Teaching on-task and on-schedule behaviors to high-functioning children with autism             via picture activity schedules. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(6), 553-567.

Ozdemir, S. (2008). The effectiveness of social stories on decreasing disruptive behaviors of children with autism: 3 case        studies. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1689-1696.

Reitman, D., Murphy, M.A., Hupp, S. D.A, & O’Callaghan, P. M. (2004).   Behavior change and perceptions of change:          Evaluating the effectiveness of a token economy. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 26(2), 17-36.

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