Behavior Modification Techniques

You can use behavior modification strategies to get your children to follow the rules. Behavior modification can be defined as the “alteration of behavior patterns through the use such learning techniques like biofeedback and positive reinforcement” or more simply as the modification of your child’s behavior using positive and negative consequences.

The idea of behavior modification is that positive behavior should result in positive consequences, while bad behavior should result in negative consequences.

Although behavior modification is most commonly used to discipline children with ADHD, autism or other oppositional defiant disorders, it can also be very effective for all kids. 1

Positive punishment, negative punishment and positive reinforcement are all possible methods of behavior modification.

Children’s behavior

  • Positive Punishment

To stop bad behavior, punishment is used. Although it may sound confusing to call punishment positive, operant conditioning means that the term positive refers to adding. A positive punishment is one that adds a consequence to discourage the child from repeating the same behavior.

Here are some examples of positive punishment:

  • As a punishment for lying when a child is asked if he has cleaned his bedroom, give the child an extra chore.
  • Ask your child to write an apology note after hurting someone’s feelings.
  • After hurting his sibling, insist on a child doing the chores of his sibling.
  • Although spanking can be considered a positive punishment, most experts agree that corporal punishment should never be used for behavior modification.


  • Negative Punishment

Negative punishment is when a child is denied something. Negative punishment can be taken away from children or removed from positive attention.

  • Here are some examples of negative punishment:
  • Place a child in timeout so that he does not receive any positive attention.
  • Actively ignore a temper tantrum.
  • It is possible to take away the electronic privileges of a child.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is when a parent gives a child something to reinforce good behavior. Positive reinforcement is a discipline that relies primarily on positive reinforcement. Examples include praise, reward systems, and token economies.

Here are some examples of positive reinforcement:

  • You can say, “Great job taking my dish away before I asked!”
  • A child can earn time on his tablet by completing his homework.
  • A teenager gets a later curfew because they are on the honor roll.
  • Negative Reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement occurs when a child is motivated by the thought of losing something.

If a parent shouts at a child, he is trying to remove the negative reinforcement (the screaming). Children should not use negative reinforcement as they are less effective than positive reinforcement.

Here are some examples of negative reinforcement

To get their son to do his chores, they nag him. To stop the nagging, he does his chores.

One child was getting into fights with his peers at the bus stop. His mother begins to go to the bus stop every day with him. He starts to behave so that his mother doesn’t have to wait for him at the bus stop.

During the morning commute to school, a teenager complains about school. To drown out his complaints, his father turned on the talk radio. Because he doesn’t want to listen, the teenager doesn’t complain about anything the next day.

How to use behavior modification to change your child’s  behavior

It is impossible to force your child to change his behavior. You can make the environment more conducive to his behavior change. Behavior modification refers to changing the environment so that your child is more motivated to follow the rules.

To make behavior modification work, you must be consistent. Praise your child every time he does his chores. You can then gradually reduce your praise.

Consistency is key to avoiding negative consequences. Your consequences will not be effective if your child is sent to time-out only once every five hits. He must go to time out every time he hits somebody.

Adults working together to modify behavior are more effective. Children will change their behavior faster if teachers, daycare providers, or other caregivers use the exact same rewards and consequences.

Be aware that behavior modification needs to be tailored to the specific needs of your child. Strategies that work for one child may not work for another.