Behavior Change Programs in the Home

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Trying to help children change behaviors can be challenging, and it requires the support of many different people. This lesson gives you some ideas for how behavior change programs can take place at home.

Why Behavior Change Programs Count

Are you someone who works with students who have challenging behaviors? Whether your students or clients have trauma histories, struggle with developmental disabilities, or behave aggressively, dealing with difficult behaviors can be stressful and even exhausting. Yet one of the things that can help you the most is to have a systematic and organized behavior change program in place.

A strong behavior change program names the difficult behaviors, establishes realistic and reasonable goals, and offers supports for how to achieve these goals. A program that works will also have a built-in measure for assessing whether the goal has been achieved. A truly useful behavior change program does not happen only in a school or clinical setting. In fact, one of the most important concepts in behavioral change is that of transfer, or the ability of a student to take what he or she has learned about behaving in one setting and use it in another setting as well. One of the best ways you can support transfer is by helping family members establish behavior change programs in the home.

Establish Common Ground

Possibly the most important thing you can do in order to establish behavior change programs in your students' home is to establish common ground with the people who care for them. Sometimes, you see a particular behavior as problematic, but the child's parents are not bothered by it. This can also happen in the other direction.

To establish common ground with families, have a meeting that includes family members, teachers, and all of the support staff involved in a child's learning. At the meeting, try to:

  • Create a list of three to five behaviors that everyone hopes will change.
  • Explain the importance of reinforcement at home so that behaviors can change across the environments.
  • Come up with an action plan for intervening in difficult behaviors.

Make a Plan

Actual behavior intervention plans can vary in many ways, and it will be up to you and the child's family to choose a system that is likely to work. In creating a system, make sure you think about the child's capacity to generalize, or take a lesson learned in one situation and apply it appropriately to other, similar situations. Components of a good behavior plan include:

  • Preventative measures

These are agreed upon steps that everyone will take to try to prevent the problem behavior from occurring. For instance, if a child tends to lash out aggressively when hungry, a preventative measure might include offering frequent, healthy snacks.

  • Reward systems

Almost all children benefit from reinforcement for positive behaviors. Establish a system of rewards that can work consistently across settings. For instance, you might reinforce a child's friendliness by complimenting them when they act kind to others, or you might reinforce their efforts at organization by giving them a sticker in the evening if their desk is clean.

  • Consequences

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