Behavioral Interventions for Children

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Helping children learn to behave in school can be one of the hardest aspects of teaching. This lesson offers you an overview of different possibilities for intervention.

Behavior Intervention is Challenging

Suzanne is a kindergarten teacher, and she just loves working with her students as they become immersed in the world of education. This year, she is struggling with some challenging behaviors. She has many students who seem stressed and overwhelmed by expectations, and they handle these feelings by acting out.

Suzanne does not want to punish her students, because she really sympathizes with their challenges. At the same time, she knows that if she lets the negative behaviors fester, other students will not be able to learn. Suzanne decides she needs to learn more about different behavioral interventions she can use with young children. Behavioral interventions are direct courses of actions taken with the explicit purpose of addressing and modifying children's problematic behaviors.

Behavior Charts

One of the first things Suzanne learns about as she begins her research is the behavior chart. A behavior chart is a chart that addresses one to three difficult behaviors at a time, keeping track of students' positive behaviors and rewarding them for doing the right thing. Behavior charts can be used for the whole class or for one student at a time.

Suzanne decides to use a behavior chart with a student named Maya. She wants to address the fact that Maya almost never cleans up her materials and often lies down and rolls around on the rug when she is supposed to be sitting. Suzanne creates a chart with boxes for each period of the day and a column for each day of the week. Then she sits down with Maya. She explains that Maya's target behaviors are sitting during meeting times and cleaning up her materials when asked to. Every time Maya exhibits a target behavior, she will get a star in the appropriate box on the chart. Once Maya has earned ten stars, she will get to have a special lunch alone with Suzanne as a reward.

Family Involvement

As Suzanne learns, another great way to intervene with students' behaviors is to get families involved sooner rather than later. She comes to understand that communicating with the family can:

  • Provide insight into why the student is misbehaving
  • Convey to the student that all of the adults in his life are on the same page
  • Help you come up with a workable action plan for reasonable consequences

Suzanne develops a three-tier system for family involvement. When a student misbehaves twice, she sends a note home to the family. After another episode, she makes a phone call home, and after yet another episode, she asks the family to come in for a meeting. Suzanne emphasizes to families and children that the purpose of this system is not to punish children, but rather to get everybody in sync in terms of behavioral expectations. This lets the child know that all the adults in their life expect the same behaviors from the child and are there to provide support in reaching behavioral goals.

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