What are the Different Types of Behavior Modification for Children?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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There are many different types of behavior modification for children. In fact, many parenting styles can be seen as types of behavior modification, although they may not be as rigid or structured as planned behavior modification programs. Usually, the major distinctions between behavior modification systems are what type of reinforcement is provided. A simple way to think about these differences is whether rewards or punishments are offered or if both are offered. While a combination of both types of reinforcement is usually a good idea, some parents are unable to offer punishments without being excessive.

There are very few differences between types of behavior modification for children, except in terms of what rewards and punishments are used and when they are implemented. It is not advisable to use food as a reward or punishment under any circumstances, as this can result in serious psychological damage. Many children respond to verbal complaints or praise, but others may need a more tangible symbol of accomplishment. In these cases, a reward might take the form of getting to do a favorite activity, while a punishment might take the form of being denied an enjoyable activity.


Behavior modification for children is typically very straightforward. The child must be given explicit and predictable boundaries and expectations, and the child must be held to these expectations. When the child fails to abide by the rules or complete expected tasks, a punishment of some sort must be offered. Alternatively, when the child goes above and beyond what is expected, rewards should be offered. Punishments and rewards need not be more substantive than complaints and compliments, but some parents find that bribery works better.

The key to behavior modification for children is consistency. As such, most different types of programs are actually offering parents different strategies for accomplishing the same goal. Maintaining consistency over time can be extremely difficult, as children do not always respond well to changes right away. Different programs offer different ways to cope with the difficulties in making positive changes.

One of the best parts of using behavior modification for children is that the child typically can participate in comprehension of what behaviors cause which results. A child can be made to understand explicitly why he or she is being punished. Behavior modification for children is therefore quite unlike behavior modification in a lab or training setting, where conditioning the animal or person must often be done without the subject's comprehension. Children can develop a desire to participate in learning good behavior, which can completely resolve any need for punishments.


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Post 3

@Icecream17 -I think that is a great idea. I wanted to add that my friend’s son saw a behavioral therapist because of his extreme impulsivity. The therapist would structure a behavior modification program for him that consisted of a series of role playing exercises.

The role playing exercise really helped because he was able to practice how to behave next time that a problem came up. The therapist also used journaling so that the boy could pin point what his triggers were so that they could find an alternative activity that he could engage in instead of being disruptive.

The therapist also helped the boy improve his social skills which actually helped him make a few friends.

Post 2

@Suntan12 -I agree with you and I think that there should be positive reinforcement when excellent behavior is displayed. If you have a behavior chart for example on your refrigerator that shows how the children behaved every week they will be able to see whether they are making progress or not.

You could have them put a sticker on the days in which they behaved and they could see by the absence of stickers that there were problems on those days.

I remember when my daughter was having problems with talking in class in Kindergarten I gave the teacher a roll of little tickets and told her to give her one if she had a good day.

At the end of the week if she got at least three tickets I would let her get something from a little goody bag I had for her. The ticket became very symbolic and it was something that she truly strived for.

It worked so well with my daughter that the teacher proposed the plan with other children in the classroom as well.

Post 1

I think that the biggest challenge in performing behavior modification techniques in children involves consistency.

If the child understands the rules and realizes that there are consequences for their actions then they will become compliant.

However, if the consequences are spelled out and the child misbehaves and the parent does not follow through on the punishment then the child will continue the problematic behavior. The way that the child will understand the consequences to their actions is if they realize that they have choices that they can make and if they choose poorly the punishment will follow.

I think another problem is that the punishment has to be something that will mean something to a child. For

example, with my children going to bed an hour early is like a death sentence so I know that that is what I strive for when my children choose to make bad choices and don’t listen.

If you are consistent you won’t have to go through this too many times because the children will know that you are serious because behavioral modification works when it is applied correctly.

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