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Most teachers and parents understand what it’s like working with children who engage in disruptive, dangerous, or disrespectful behaviors.

Let’s look at ways positive behavior support can be implemented to help children change their behavior.

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Positive Behavior Support

Dealing with inappropriate behaviors at home and school is a challenge for parents and teachers. Some children have disabilities like autism, Down syndrome, or learning disabilities, while other might simply have trouble complying with rules. In any case, many children respond well to a technique called positive behavior support.

Positive behavior support (PBS) is a combination of strategies that help individuals change their problem behaviors. It’s grown in popularity as teachers and schools have shifted in their approach, specifically focusing on how to incorporate positive changes that encourage students, rather than resorting to punishment first. Class reward systems, school rules, and discipline strategies have all been influenced by the strategies of PBS.These strategies are strongly supported by research and used to help students with and without disabilities in a variety of settings. PBS has been implemented in individual classrooms and on school-wide levels. And while PBS is used widely in schools, parents can implement the same PBS strategies at home to create consistency and predictability for their children.

Positive Behavior Support at Home

There is only so much a teacher can do at school to help children change their behavior.

Parent support is a critical piece of a child’s behavior intervention, because children spend most of their time with their families outside of school. As teachers and parents collaborate and share ideas, they can create a more seamless transition between home and school.PBS strategies are meant to be used at all times, in all environments. These strategies do not necessarily require money, formal training, or special equipment. Let’s look at a list of PBS strategies to consider trying at home.

  • Use positive language
  • Create schedules and routines
  • Teach new skills
  • Pick your battles
  • Provide rewards
  • Give choices
  • Give clear expectations
  • Adapt the environment

Implementing Positive Behavior Supports

While there is a much longer comprehensive list of PBS strategies, these examples may get parents started. For the sake of time, this lesson will focus specifically on three main PBS strategies: teaching skills, adapting the environment, and using positive language.

Teaching Skills

Many parents of children with disabilities have experience dealing with problem behaviors.

These behaviors could include anything from throwing tantrums or refusing to complete homework to using inappropriate language and engaging in self-injurious behaviors. PBS strategies focus not only on helping children decrease these behaviors, but also on teaching replacement behaviors. Replacement behaviors are appropriate behaviors that a child can do instead of engaging in the problem behavior that results in the same outcome.Let’s look at the example of Kira, a thirteen-year-old girl with high-functioning autism.

Kira hates doing her homework, and after working for a couple of minutes, she begins to hit herself in the head until her parents intervene and let her go do something else. Clearly, Kira is trying to get a break from working and, in the end, she gets what she wants because her parents cannot allow her to hurt herself.In order to help Kira complete her homework and stop hitting herself, her parents teach her an appropriate way to communicate that she needs a break. After working for five minutes, Kira can say ‘I need a break.

‘ Her parents allow her to take a five-minute break, and then she comes back to work. Because Kira is getting what she wants (a break), by doing something appropriate (asking), she no longer needs to hit herself to communicate her needs.

Adapting the Environment

Often times, making changes to the environment results in improved behavior. For example, let’s say Greg frequently bolts out of house whenever his younger siblings get home from school. After observation, his parents may conclude that this time of day is especially noisy and chaotic.

The noise level and increase in activity seem to be setting Greg off. The stimulation becomes too much for him to handle, so he deals with it by running away. Changing Greg’s environment by allowing him to go to a quiet room in the house for a period of time each day provides the escape he needs, thereby eliminating the problem behavior (running away).

Changes in the environment don’t always include switching the physical location. They may include changing the music, the lighting in the room, the prompt, or the order of activities in a routine.

Using Positive Language

Part of implementing positive behavior strategies includes the way we prompt children to behave appropriately. It is easy to tell kids not to run or to stop hitting their sister, but these statements are worded negatively and can be changed to be more effective.

When we tell a child ‘Don’t run in the house,’ we are describing the exact behavior we don’t want to see. Research has shown that children are more likely to change their behavior when they are taught a new skill in a positive way. Our prompts should describe the exact behavior we want to see. Here are a few examples of ways to word our prompts in a positive way.

  • Walk in the house.

  • Keep your hands to yourself.
  • Use a quiet voice.
  • Say nice words.
  • Stay in this room.

Lesson Summary

Children with difficult behaviors can present many challenges for parents and teachers. Positive behavior support is a combination of strategies that have been proven effective in changing inappropriate behaviors.

Parents can implement PBS strategies at home to support what teachers are doing at school. By teaching new skills and replacement behaviors, adapting the environment, and using positive language, parents can implement positive changes that result in improved behavior from their child. These supports also create a safe and encouraging environment for children.

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