Evaluating Behavior Management Strategies

The past few weeks have seen us exploring different behavioral strategies for the treatment of problem behavior in children with special needs. However, some parents are faced with the challenge of implementing the strategies and evaluating their child’s behavior change. First, parents must ensure that everyone working with the child agree with and are ready to implement the behavior strategies that is agreed on by ensuring:

  • a clear understanding of the goals and strategies
  • Readiness to apply the strategies.

It is interesting to note that children are quick at finding parents’ weaknesses and taking advantage of any lapses. So, before implementation, it is necessary to review the plan and;

  • educate yourselves more on the strategies you have chosen, its possible initial reactions, such as the “extinction burst”; outline the behavioral goals and the specific rewards and consequences that will be used
  • Ensure consistency, immediacy, and contingency.

In the case of a child who is in the habit of hitting other children when they refuse to share their candy or toy, it is important for parents to know to interrupt the hitting every time it occurs (consistency) and to provide quickly (immediacy) a meaningful consequence (contingent) on the child’s behavior. Allowing the child occasionally to “get away” with hitting would not stop the behavior (hitting). The child must establish the connection between the behavior and consequence and consequence must be punishable to the child to discourage the behavior from occurring again.  It is important to avoid every action that might interfere with a parent ability to be consistent and provide immediate consequences.

Within 1-2 weeks of effectively implementing your behavioral goals, you should be able to observe behavioral change. So, assess the effectiveness of the strategies being used and compare behavior before and now to see whether the behavioral goal is being met. If not being met, you may need to adjust the strategies by modifying either antecedents(trigger), consequences (reaction/rewards) or both.