• Think Happy Live Healthy

The ABC’s of Behavior Modification

As parents, you work tirelessly to encourage your children to engage in positive behaviors. Through teaching, modeling, and reinforcing, you scaffold your children’s development of prosocial behaviors, and hope that these behaviors will carry over to multiple settings (not just home!) Despite the strategies you have used to help shape your child’s behavior, are you finding that you are wrestling with the same negative behaviors over and over again? Are these behaviors having a significant impact on your child and/or your family’s functioning? If so, you may want to consider collecting more information, and you can do this by determining the ABC’s.


The ABC’s you say? Well, what we are referencing here are the terms antecedent, behavior, and consequence. To work towards modifying undesirable behavior, it is first helpful to think through what occurs prior to the behavior occurring, in other words, the antecedent to the behavior. Sometimes, the antecedents are clear cut and you are aware of what triggers your child’s behavior. Other times the antecedents can be harder to determine. Collecting data on when your child engages in the undesirable behavior can help you to figure out patterns that inform the antecedent.


While you are very familiar with the undesirable behavior(you observe it often!), it is important to collect baseline data to help you determine specific information. Is the behavior occurring on certain days of the week or during particular times of the day? How many instances of the behavior are occurring in a given week or day? Is the behavior occurring just at home or in a variety of settings? Gathering baseline data is crucial as it can be a starting point for future comparison as behavioral progress is monitored. Remember, the behavior your children are engaging in is serving a purpose for them, and through their behavior, they are trying to communicate a message that they may not be able to express verbally.


When reflecting on the term consequence, you want to ask yourself what your child is obtaining or avoiding as a result of the behavior. For example, does this behavior allow him or her to avoid a task at home or get adult attention? Does your child exhibit certain behaviors in order to obtain or avoid sensory stimulation? The consequence, or in other words, the outcome the child receives, reinforces the behavior that is occurring. So once the consequence is figured out, you are best able to determine the function of the child’s behavior.


Taking all this information together, you are now in a place where you are best able to come up with a hypothesis, based on the information you gathered, as to why your child is engaging in the undesired behavior. Next week, we will focus on how to use the hypothesis to create a behavior intervention plan to help support your child’s growth and work towards promoting positive behavioral change.


We are here to help! Please contact us at info@thinkhappylivehealthy.com or call us at 703-942-9745 for more information. We have experience working with clients of all ages on a variety of behavior management strategies.



Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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256 N. Washington St. (Suite 2) Falls Church, VA 22046 
703-942-9745
info@thinkhappylivehealthy.com
Psychologist