Oh Behave!

Behavior is the way we act in response to diff erent situations and/or environments. All behaviors have a reason and children use behaviors to express something. As parents we could observe the behavior to see what’s really happening.

The A B C’s of Understanding Behavior

Antecedents – events that immediately precede a problem behavior. They can be related to the time of day, the physical environment, people who are present, or activities that are occurring. Being yelled at or teased by other children, being told to complete an assignment, having a toy taken away, or being told to stop an activity are possible antecedents. Antecedent events can also include the absence of attention, being ignored, or the absence of a desired activity.

Behavior – The problem behavior to be corrected.

Consequences – What does the child GET from the behavior (attention, toys, food, games, money, activities)? What does the child AVOID with the behavior (work, tasks, events/activities, attention, pain)?

Questions to Ask:

  • What behavior might create a reaction that becomes an event?
  • What behavior usually becomes an event?
  • What specific things happen with the event?
  • What else might contribute to the behavior?
  • What other behaviors cause the same event?

When behavior “events” occur:

  • What do you do? What do other adults do? What do peers do?
  • Is anything removed or stopped?
  • Does anything allow the person to escape?
  • When does the behavior “event” usually happen?
  • What happens before the event (antecedent)?
  • When and where does the behavior NOT happen?

Simple ideas to help a child who has challenging behaviors include effective instructions, modifying strategies and timeout.

Effective Instructions

  • Get child’s attention
  • Use neutral tone of voice
  • Be brief and clear
  • One step at a time
  • Wait for a response
  • Take away distractions
  • Reward compliance
  • Practice
  • Correct responding
  • Ignoring

Modifying Strategies

  • Adjust the difficulty of the task
  • Shorten the length of time
  • Give choices
  • Create a to-do list (task analysis)
  • Teach other ways to react
  • Provide frequent feedback
  • Give warnings
  • Use a timer
  • Break task into small parts
  • Make it meaningful to the person


  • Choose the specific behaviors for which the timeout will be used
  • Decide place and length of time
  • Have a plan for breaking timeout rules
  • Ignore protests
  • When over – return to original location and praise

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