Anticipate, to prevent problem behaviors

When a child misbehaves most parents reprimand the child.  Hopefully parents also explain to their child what behavior is expected.  But what happens if, after several incidents, reprimands and explanations, your child is still misbehaving in the same way?  I have a suggestion:  anticipate to prevent.  Therapists use the ABC”s: antecedent, behavior, consequence.  Parents usually use behavior-consequence, but parents have the most leverage in the antecedent stage. Begin by identifying a problem behavior that has happened at least three times.  Think about who, what, when, where and why.  Around whom does the behavior usually occur?  What, actually, is the problem behavior?  When is it most likely to happen?  Where is it most likely to happen? Now, why do you think the child is misbehaving?  If the child misbehaves around one person, but not another, perhaps the rules are inconsistent.  If the child misbehaves early in the morning, maybe she isn’t getting enough sleep, or needs to be awakened earlier so you don’t have to rush her to get ready.  If the child is misbehaving in the car, does he need non-messy toys to amuse him so he doesn’t make mischief.  Finally, “prep” or “preload” your child with a reminder of the behavior that you desire, and how pleased you will be when he does it.

Key idea:  Anticipation and prevention is more effective than reacting after misbehavior.


Melody Matthews Lowman, M.A. has a background in both psychology and education. Her biopsychosocial approach allows her to be a resource for behavioral and educational problem solving for children, teens and adults.
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