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Behavior Management

Little girl having a temper tantrum with

What is behavior management?

Behavior management is exactly that, how adults manage a child’s behavior whether it is age appropriate, socially appropriate or not. The adults management of the child’s behavior is essential in maintaining order and structure in the lives of busy families (and classrooms), as well as setting children up for success. Adults being persistent and consistent are the fundamental requirements of a successful behavior management plan. Importantly adults should only put strategies in place that they can and do follow through on.


Why is behavior management important?

Effective and consistent behavior management of challenging behavior by the adult is important because:

  • Health and quality of life: Challenging behavior may seriously affect a child’s and adult’s (parent or carer)  health and quality of life.

  • Reduce risk: Some risks associated with challenging behavior include self-injurious behavior (including ingestion or inhalation of foreign bodies, hitting the head on a hard surface or throwing the body on the floor) can result in serious injuries. Accidental injury is also a common issue in children with aggressive behavior, for the child in question, surrounding children and most commonly for the involved adults as they seek to prevent the child harming themselves and others.

  • Dietary deficiencies: Oppositional behavior may result in dietary deficiencies, weight loss or gross obesity.


  • Social isolation: Challenging behavior can often lead to social isolation of both the adult and child.

  • Reduce mental health issues: Research also suggests that lack of social skills can lead to loneliness and depression from an early age.

  • Appropriate behavior is necessary to support entry to most preschool and school settings, as well as other typical children's’ experiences such as peer parties, swimming lessons, christmas concerts etc.

What are the building blocks necessary to develop the adults behavior management?

  • Self Regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behavior, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner. Most importantly, the adult must be able to “keep their cool” before and during the behavior challenges. Some authors describe that when adults “lose their cool” by yelling or hitting, this is simply the adult having a tantrum and modeling to the child how to do it better than them!

  • Emotional Regulation: involves the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions. This also involves the adult being able to distinguish between the child and their behavior: love and respect the child but dislike and discourage the negative behaviors.

  • Understanding of age expectations: is the knowledge of what is appropriate behavior at the various stages of development so the adults can hold appropriate expectations.

  •  Consistency: Adults must be committed to the cause and be prepared for the need for consistent repetition in behaviour management, all day every day for fastest gains.

If left untreated what can behavior management difficulties lead to?

In the child:

  • Little progress in their behavior

  • Ill-intended reinforcement to the child of their inappropriate behavior

  • Increased peer rejection and social isolation from peers, siblings, and adults

  • A broadening gap in their academic and social progress 

  • Poor self esteem and the self perception 

  • Difficulties following instructions from others in a position of authority or in the family

  • Poor academic outcomes.

 In the Adult:

  • Peer rejection and social isolation of bother parents and children

  • Not only does a child become stressed and anxious when their behavior is out of control, particularly when they are more aware of their behavior, so too does a parent or teacher

  • Restricting a family’s ability to engage in typical  day-to-day activities such as attending swimming lessons or sporting groups as well as  going to the movies/zoo  and visiting friends and families

  • The longer behavior management challenges continue, the harder it becomes to break the cycle and the longer it is reinforced that the child is able to take control (as opposed to the adults being in control)


 What type of therapy is recommended for behavior management difficulties?

If you have difficulties with behavior management with your child, it is recommended you consult a Behavioral Specialist for a Functional Behavior Assessment.

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