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How to prevent difficult behaviors - Part 2

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

What's the best way to manage challenging behaviours?

Prevent them from happening in the first place!


Here's a quick summary of what was mentioned in the previous blog post "How to prevent difficult behaviors - Part 1"

#1: Function

Remember: "Function comes first". Determine what your child is trying to gain or escape by engaging in the behaviour.

You can determine the function by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What is my child trying to COMMUNICATE to me when they display the behaviour?

  2. What is my child trying to GAIN or get when they display the difficult behaviour?

  3. What is my child trying to AVOID or ESCAPE when they display the difficult behaviour?

#2: Use visuals

#3: Use verbal/ visual forewarning

#4: Give Choices

Now, here are some other strategies to consider.

#5 Adjust the environment

There are times when environmental adjustments need to be put in place to prevent the escalation of behaviors and prevent your child from being injured. Environmental adjustments that are restrictive should only be used until your child has learnt the appropriate skills to replace the challenging behavior. The fading out of the environmental adjustments as soon as possible is crucial. It is important to be aware that some of these adjustments might not be appropriate for your child depending on their age, however some adjustments might be needed to keep your child safe. Additionally, it is essential that you are working on teaching your child the skills they need to replace the behavior of concern. This might involve teaching them functional communication, social skills, tolerance skills or impulse control. It's important to not feel guilty if you don't know what to do. There are many professionals out there who can support you to teach your child or can train therapists and assistants. Emu Education - Parent & Behaviour Support can help you with this so feel free to contact us for a complimentary discovery session.

What to consider before adjusting the environment:

When making adjustments to the environment you must consider the ethical and safety implications. We all have human rights whether we are a child, a person with a disability, identify as LGBTQ2S+ or an immigrant, so we must keep this in mind when implementing any strategy.

For children and individuals with a disability it is essential to think about what would be developmentally or typically appropriate for someone of their age. If the strategy is restricting the person's freedom of movement, choice and control then other strategies need to be considered. In these situations it is recommended that you consult with a qualified practitioner before implementing strategies.

Here are some suggestions for adjusting the environment to prevent behaviors:

  • Remove or move furniture to prevent you child from climbing and jumping off of them

  • Put items that your child is not allowed to have in a cupboard where they can't see them (so they're not tempted to ask for the items)

  • Set up for success - prepare as much as possible with the resources you need, reduce distractions and have something positive for you child at the end to reinforce your child

  • Use a daily visual schedule so that your child is aware of what is happening

  • Close the door to rooms you don't want your child to go into and have their favorite toys located in a room you want them to play in

#6: Give them what they want... before they want it!

This doesn't mean giving your child what they want when they display the inappropriate behavior (however I do talk about it in my blog "Tackling tantrums - 4 tips for responding"). Rather, this tip refers to providing your child with what they want before they usually display the behavior or give them more of what they want.

Here are some examples:

  • Your child has a meltdown when they get home because they want to eat straight away and find it difficult to wait while you prepare afternoon snack.

PREVENT - have a snack ready for them to eat in the car on their way home

  • On most day at approximately 10am your child starts to climb on the dining table, kitchen bench and scream for your attention.

PREVENT - at 9.45am schedule active play time with your child where you give them positive attention, take them outside to climb on the play equipment or set up gross motor play activities in the home in an appropriate way. This might involve setting up an obstacle course, log rolling on the floor, wheelbarrow walks etc.

#7: Make the situation more inviting

Sometimes our children need a little more incentive to do tasks or go to places they they don't like. This is just like those days when we don't feel like going to work, but decide that if we go we'll get ourselves a treat at lunch!

  • Put preferred items or pictures of favorite characters in the non-preferred environment (e.g. put pictures of their favorite character on the walls of the toilet, make a dinner place-mat with pictures of the favorite character)

  • Use highly preferred items or activities to motivate your child to do less preferred activities - use "First... Then..."

  • Involve their interests within learning - singing a favorite song to transition from outside to inside, coloring their favorite numbers

  • Include movement within learning e.g. they have to run to the end of the room to find number 10, place letters on the floor and they have to stomp on the letters in their name, practice following silly instructions such as "go to the door, knock then stick your tongue out"

With so many ways to prevent difficult behaviors, it's important to remember to find what works for you, your child and your family. Don't try to do everything at once. Choose 1-2 strategies, try them out for a few weeks then determine if they are helping or not. Remember that often preventative strategies won't work on their own, we also need to be teaching appropriate replacement skills and responding in the right way too!



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