Behavior Management Techniques Need This for Lasting Effects

The goal of behavior management is to produce positive outcomes in behaviors that need to be modified or taken to the next positive level. Unfortunately, many of these techniques and strategies are employed without the use of specific rationales. Without these rationales, behaviors may be modified, but may not show lasting longevity.

When dealing with behavior management as a whole, one is generally referring to misbehavior and its implications for a specific person. There are numerous techniques that one can find in the educational system as well as situations in the workplace that are based on these types of techniques to manage behavior.

The simple act of grading is a behavior management technique. Students work to attain the best grade. The rationale here is that better grades will open up more opportunities in the future. At least this is the rationale that we sell our students. Getting paid for the work that one does is also a simple technique. We work so that we can earn money to buy things like groceries and shelter. If we did not get paid, most of us would likely not work. Simple technique, simple rationale.

But what about misbehavior? Most forms of misbehavior require more effort than a simple reward in order to change the negative behavior into positive behavior. Most importantly, behavior management must incorporate rationales in order to improve the chances that the changed or modified behavior will stand the test of time.

In any setting this is of vital importance. But using the tool of supplying rationales for specific behaviors is of critical importance in the family setting. Although I have yet to find a study that concentrates solely on this matter in terms of behavior management in the home setting, I know from experience that many parents limit their effectiveness when they do not supply their children with rationales for behaving appropriately.

The best way to illustrate this concept of providing rationales is to use two examples. Let us say, for instance, that two six-year-old children is separate homes have developed the behavior of hitting when angry. Hitting is the behavior that needs to be eliminated. In both homes, a simple star chart is used to modify the behavior of hitting. Each day that the child goes without displaying the behavior of hitting, he receives a star that is placed on a chart. Ultimately, rewards will be given for X number of days without hitting.

In one home the child is told what he needs to do (not hit) in order to receive a star and the further reward. This child is motivated to get his star and then go out for a special meal and a movie after X number of days. In this example the parents supply no rationale for the behavior change. In other words, the child never really knows why he should stop hitting other than “Hitting is wrong”.

In the second example, the same situation exists. The child will receive stars and further reward of a meal out and a movie when he demonstrates non-hitting behaviors. But in this home, the parents give the child rationales for why hitting is not okay. These parents use statements such as:

“Hitting hurts others.” (This is an example of an “other-centered” rationale.)
“Hitting makes the other person feel bad. Try counting to ten the next time you want to hit your sister.”
“We know that you get angry. But you cannot hit people when you get angry. People will not like you if you are always hitting them.”

In both examples, the possibility is very real that the child will stop hitting and earn his reward. But the second example holds the best chances for lasting success because the parents took the time to explain to their child why hitting is bad. These parents supplied the child with rationales or reasons to stop hitting others. Without these reasons being constantly reinforced, lasting change in behavior is less likely to happen.

Rationales are the reasons why a child should not engage in inappropriate behaviors. These are a necessary component of any behavior management plan. Make sure that you use this tool of supplying the rationale for behavior change the next time you work to modify your child’s behavior. It shows much greater impact on the misbehavior and allows for long-lasting behavior change.

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