Behaviour modification

What is behaviour modification?

Behaviour modification is the process of recognising undesirable behaviours and teaching and encouraging alternative positive behaviours in their place.  For example, if a child always throws a tantrum when asked to get dressed in the morning. Rather than focus on the negative behaviour (the tantrum) and reacting to the behaviour, introduce an alternative positive action for the child to follow i.e. allow them to select their clothes before getting dressed.  This then empowers them with the decisions made around getting dressed and shows them a positive outcome from not throwing a tantrum.  In this situation you would need to ensure you follow through and allow them to leave the house in whatever clothing they choose – regardless of how mixed up it might look.

Understanding developmental needs of the child 

When it comes time to initiate the behaviour modification process it is important that you have an understanding of the level of development your child is at.  All children are different and while they generally reach certain milestones at around the same time, some reach them earlier and some later so it is vital that you recognise where your child is in his/her development and then incorporate this into any behaviour modification process you put into place.  A good example of this is toilet training; there is no point putting your child through toilet training at 18 months and then having to live with the stress that comes with it, when in reality your child isn’t ready to understand toilet training until they are at least 2 years of age, and more often than not, not until they are closer to 3 years of age. Some children will be ready earlier and some later. It is imperative that you judge where your child is at.

Age appropriate discipline

In behaviour where there needs to be discipline involved, it is important to consider the age of your child before you initiate any discipline.  A 2 year old won’t understand what it means not to watch their favourite television show but a 7 year old will.  Discipline needs to be adhered to for it to become effective so ensure you choose a discipline relative to the age of your child to ensure they learn what discipline actually is.

All in all, you need to have realistic expectations of your child and their development.  Don’t use someone else’s child as a guide for your child’s behaviour.  Base your reactions on what you know is best for your child.  You spend the time with them. You provide the environment for them to grow in.  Consider all of these factors before looking at how to modify any negative behaviours and you will then arm yourself with the best chance of success (and the least amount of parent guilt and stress).