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A child starts developing habits, manners, and behaviours from a very young age. In the first few years of their life, a child’s social circle includes only their parents and close relatives, and they learn early behaviours by imitating them. As they grow older, their social circle expands to include teachers, other adults, and friends, who intentionally or unintentionally encourage certain behaviours and discourage others, resulting in specific behavioural patterns.
It is the responsibility of adults to recognise the habits and actions which affect a child negatively and take some measures to modify them to acceptable behaviours. Most adults have an inbuilt instinct to correct the misbehaviours of children. But many of the actions taken by them lack structure, consistency in application, and fail to get expected results. This failure leads to frustration in adults and negative feelings such as anger, self-doubt, etc. Hence, it is important to understand behaviour modification, its various techniques, and benefits to design an effective method that suits your child’s needs.
What Is Behaviour Modification?
Behaviour modification is the process of changing unwanted, destructive habits and behaviours to desirable and healthy actions with the help of rewards and consequences.
Behaviour modification psychology is built on the belief that we are conditioned or shaped by our environment. It means we act and react in a certain way if there are positive consequences and incentives attached to our behaviour. But by changing the environment, the consequences can be made into punishments, motivating us to alter our behaviour. This approach is not focused on diving into the cause of a behaviour, only modifying that behaviour.
This theory was first used on animals in the late 1800s. The psychologists observed that animals responded in a specific way when they got trained with food as a reward. Behaviour modification was considered unorthodox and faced a lot of resistance till the mid-1900s. After, the in-depth works of many psychologists, such as Jerzy Konorski, B.F. Skinner, etc. it was finally accepted as psychological treatment in 1950. Since then, many diseases have been treated using numerous behaviour modification strategies.
Benefits of Behaviour Modification Techniques
Even a tiny change in behaviour can have an unbelievable effect on our life. Some of the benefits of behaviour modification therapy are,
- It is very effective in overcoming various disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and addictions. It helps people to regain and increase their confidence and improve the quality of their life.
- It improves physical and mental health by helping people resolve issues such as eating disorders, chronic pain, insomnia, depression, phobias, etc.
- Providing people with tools to manage and change problematic behaviours improves their personal and professional relationships. It teaches them coping skills to handle challenges and surprises in life.
- It motivates employees to do a better job by encouraging them with attractive incentives.
- It gives successful methods to parents and teachers to work on the behaviour disorders in children.
- It is a short-term treatment, hence very economical. Based on the type of issue, the treatment period may range from a few weeks to several months.
- The techniques are straightforward and easy to learn. We make positive changes in the lifestyle by practising these methods.
Techniques of Behaviour Modification
Psychologists have been developing numerous methods of behaviour modification to treat different problems. Listed below are the methods primarily used by experts for the behaviour modification of kids. Each method is explained briefly with a relevant example to help parents and teachers in selecting the accurate one.
1. Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is giving rewards to kids to encourage the desired behaviour. Getting a gift is associated with positive feelings such as excitement and joy. Hence, it is one of the effective techniques in shaping behaviour modification in kids. To prevent kids from getting bored, surprise them with different rewards. Make the rewards be a combination of favourite food, objects, extra playtime, verbal prizes, surprise trips, extra TV time, etc.
Giving extra time to the kid to do their favourite activity
- If your child completes their homework on time, you can allow them to play their favourite video game.
- If children are well behaved in the class, the teacher can extend their playtime as a reward.
2. Negative Reinforcement
In this technique, children are motivated to towards the desired behaviour in order to escape from unpleasant experiences created by parents, teachers, or therapists.
Here is a behaviour modification example to explain this method.
To escape your nagging, children behave as they are instructed
- Your daughter cleans her room every day to prevent your verbal fireworks.
- Start asking more questions to the student who misbehaves in the class. To escape questions, he becomes attentive and stops disturbing the class.
3. Positive Punishment
In this method, kids face negative consequences for negative behaviour. Here when they act undesirably, you give them an extra task that is unpleasant to perform. Hence, it is called positive punishment.
Allowing a child to suffer the natural consequences of negative behaviour
- When your son misses the bus scheduled for a school trip, by staying awake late in the night and oversleeping in the morning, don’t help him to join the trip with other means of transportation.
- When a student intentionally skips the classes and misses your lectures, don’t assist them in getting the notes missed in those classes. Let her get a low score in tests.
4. Negative Punishment
In negative punishment, you take away something the children enjoy as a punishment for their negative behaviour. Here as a punishment, you don’t allow them to have their favourite food, playtime, etc. The fear of losing their privilege motivates them to correct their behaviour.
Taking away the favourite activity of your child
- If your kid throws tantrums whenever he loses against other kids, ban her from playing for a few days as punishment.
- If a student misbehaves during class hours, make him sit on the bench during his playtime hours.
Steps to Set Up Behaviour Modification Plan
Follow the simple steps listed below to create a behaviour modification plan for your child.
1. Understand the Child
It is important to consider your child’s age, gender, likes, dislikes, and other factors to gauge thier response to different behaviour modification strategies. For example, young children may consider spending more time with a parent as a reward, whereas teenagers may consider it as punishment because this reduces time with their friends.
2. Understand the Behaviour to Modify
Consider the effort and time required to modify the behaviour. For example, not wasting food can be taught with positive reinforcement. But preventing the wetting of bed at night needs more time and multiple techniques.
3. Choose the Method That Works Best
For younger children, positive reinforcement methods give the desired results. But for teenagers, a combination of negative or positive punishments might be more effective. Don’t hesitate to change or come up with your methods when existing ones don’t work.
4. Create a Behaviour Modification Plan
Create a plan with rewards, consequences, and punishments specifically designed on the basis of the behaviour to be corrected in the child. When there are natural consequences for negative behaviour, make sure you consider whether the child should face a consequence or if they have had enough for the day. If you push a child too much or too less any technique may end up being ineffective.
How to Use Behaviour Modification for Children
Most children are impulsive and lack the discipline to behave unless there are rewards and punishments to encourage or discourage them. Hence, it’s important not to force them but change their environment so that they have to take action and respond with acceptable behaviours. Consider the below-mentioned points to make behaviour modification for children to be more effective.
1. Consistent Consequences
Make sure to provide the same consequences each time when the child performs a task or misbehaves. For example, if you praise your child when he switches off the light in the bathroom, make sure to praise him every time he does it until it becomes part of his routine and, and you no longer need to provide positive reinforcement.
2. Immediate Consequences
Make sure to provide rewards or punishments immediately after the child acts or reacts. If you give it after a day or a week, it will break the formation of a good habit and won’t be effective.
3. Effective Consequences
If a chosen consequence is not working, be ready to try another one until you find the one that works in modifying the child’s behaviour.
4. Same Consequences
When all the adults, including family members, teachers, caregivers, etc., provide the same consequences, then the behaviour change happens even faster.
The behaviour modification methods are adaptable to fix many issues in life. Destroying and developing new habits and behaviours not only boosts your self-confidence, but also helps you become successful in life. Go ahead and start practising these methods to have a balanced and fulfilling life.