Parenting Unusual - Challenging/Problem Behavior.

Replacement Behavior

What is Replacement Behavior

Replacement behavior is an appropriate behavior that takes the place of the disruptive or unwanted behavior. it can be a new behavior or a behavior the child already performs.  The intent of the replacement behavior is to show that the child can access what he/she wants or avoid what the child does not want in a more appropriate way with less effort. In teaching replacement behavior, you must let go of any preconceived notion of what is good or bad because many times when we think we are punishing the child, (yelling, beating, denying or even timeout) we are reinforcing the behavior.

Once we know the function to an inappropriate behavior – like the example of Carol in the last post, we can replace that unwanted behavior with an appropriate behavior that will serve the same function as the inappropriate behavior. communicating appropriately is the behavior we want the child to engage in. Many problem behaviors are a result of limited social skills although in some cases, the child is saying, “I have a need”. So, bearing in mind that the behavior is serving a need for the child, we need to teach the child the appropriate way to communicate the same thing.

As shown on the table above, we teach the child how to appropriately:

  • Request for help
  • Request for attention
  • Negotiate or share
  • Finish a task and play with a preferred food/activity
  • Wait/take turns.

Replacement behavior does not teach a child what not to do rather, it presents the child with something else to do. Like in the case of a child who flaps his hands(self-stimulatory behavior) because it gives a positive sensory input, knowing that this is not to escape or get access to something but just to feel good inside or express excitement, you present the child with something that will give the same feeling but less disruptive and injurious.

Prompt reinforcement is required once the child engages in the appropriate behavior, we must reinforce by providing attention, helping based on the request, give the preferred game on completion of the task, give praise or reward to increase the behavior and decrease the unwanted behavior.