Preventing challenging behaviours

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+

As parents, preventative strategies are a good start to tackling your child’s challenging behaviours. In this article, you’ll find tips on how to help your child control their own behaviour.

1. Warnings

Warnings give a child the understanding that a preferred activity is ending – for example, “TV time will be finished in 5 minutes.” Children often struggle with transitions, which can result in them not following instructions. Simple tricks like using a timer can help a child understand the concept of time, and provide them with a reference point for when the activity is ending.

2. Make sure you can back up what you say

Before asking your child to perform a behaviour, you should consider if you are prepared to enforce the request and deliver a consequence. For example, “It is time to clean up your room – if you don’t clean up your room, there will be no TV today.”
Parents should also reflect on the magnitude of the request and consequence, and decide if it is realistic. For example, are you asking your child to perform a behaviour that is too difficult? Or, is the consequence you’ve set one that is impossible to enforce? If you set realistic expectations and consequences, your child is more likely to engage in proper behaviour and you are more likely to stick to your word.

3. Using effective reinforcers

Enjoyable and positive reinforcements are important motivators for children. Think about the following questions when selecting a reinforcer:

  • Is this something my child actually likes, or am I assuming that they will like it?
  • Is this something they have access to all the time, or something that will be a special treat?
  • Is this something that I can control access to, or will I have trouble taking it away if I need to deliver a consequence for a problem behaviour?

To get an idea of what your children may like, you can ask them directly or observe them during the day to see what they are most interested in. You can also get creative – there may be things that a child loves that they have never tried!

4. Visual schedule

If your child has trouble transitioning between activities or managing their time, a visual schedule can be a useful tool. Visual schedules help ease frustration and anxiety, and adjust to any changes in routine. Visual schedules also help children learn, complete new tasks and become more independent.
5. Providing choices
Providing choices is a good strategy to help children make positive decisions about their behaviour. Choices provide children with a sense of control about their environment, which can be a powerful motivator and helps them develop a sense of independence. However, parents should ensure that the choices they present are something they are able to provide. Offering choice is a good strategy to use when requests are being made. For example, if you would like your child to complete an activity, you can provide them with the choice, “would you like to do the activity at the table or sitting on the floor?” or, “would you like to use markers or crayons to complete this worksheet?”

It is important to remember that these strategies are not designed to be used individually, and are often more effective when used together. They are tools to support your children as they continue to learn which behaviours are appropriate. Consistency is key!
We are here to help! At Children`s Support Solutions, our Behaviour Therapy team provides individually determined support through the introduction of evidence-based strategies proven effective for families struggling to support their child`s challenging behaviour. Behaviour consultation services may involve, but are not limited to, issues related to eating, sleeping, toileting, anxiety, and challenging behaviour. Sessions can occur in the clinic, home, or school, depending on which is most appropriate for the situation.

5. Providing choices


Providing choices is a good strategy to help children make positive decisions about their behaviour. Choices provide children with a sense of control about their environment, which can be a powerful motivator and helps them develop a sense of independence. However, parents should ensure that the choices they present are something they are able to provide. Offering choice is a good strategy to use when requests are being made. For example, if you would like your child to complete an activity, you can provide them with the choice, “would you like to do the activity at the table or sitting on the floor?” or, “would you like to use markers or crayons to complete this worksheet?”

It is important to remember that these strategies are not designed to be used individually, and are often more effective when used together. They are tools to support your children as they continue to learn which behaviours are appropriate. Consistency is key!
We are here to help! At Children`s Support Solutions, our Behaviour Therapy team provides individually determined support through the introduction of evidence-based strategies proven effective for families struggling to support their child`s challenging behaviour. Behaviour consultation services may involve, but are not limited to, issues related to eating, sleeping, toileting, anxiety, and challenging behaviour. Sessions can occur in the clinic, home, or school, depending on which is most appropriate for the situation.

This article was written by Eithne Sheeran and Shauna Markowitz 

We understand you want fast access to information and services. To get started, complete our Request More Information form online here or call 1.866.653.2397. One of our friendly team members will be happy to help you.

woman smiling with her coworkers at a meeting

Just released – ‘A guide to the benefits of interprofessional care for families & children’

Download your copy today!