Maladaptive and problem behaviors are common for many children on an IEP. Most parents are at a loss when it comes to knowing what to do to help their child. Positive Behavior Intervention is always the way to go.

It’s so important to ensure schools are using positive behavior interventions, not punitive punishment for non-compliance. Using positive strategies in the home and school will create consistency across environments.

I know staying calm and consistent can sometimes feel like a challenge.

Learning to deal with problem behaviors calmly and effectively is a skill that is invaluable when dealing with any child.

One of the worst things you can do is to show that you are visibly upset or to label the problem behavior.

Here are some points to keep in mind when you are dealing with problem behaviors:

  • Safety is always first, and if you sense that the child may do something that is unsafe, you need to be prepared to keep the child safe in whatever way you can.
  • Do not yell or use physical force to gain compliance.
  • Whenever possible, use a “hands off” procedure; if you have successfully shown the child you represent “good things” the child will want to come to you.
  • Remember that you are the calm adult in the situation. Your children learn from everything you do.
  • Do not label problem behaviors.
  • Do not attempt to negotiate or reason with the child who is in the middle of a problem behavior
  • Do not attempt to resolve the problem while the child is crying.

So, what should you do?

First, try to remain calm and quiet the child down.

Children really need to learn the concept of appropriateness: in other words, “when I ask appropriately, good things happen” however, “when I exhibit problem behavior, reinforcement DOES NOT occur.”

The best way to accomplish this is to not allow the child access to reinforcement during an episode of problem behavior.

If a child has a tantrum because you will not give him or her a chip, do NOT give the chip, even if it seems as though that would be the easier choice to stop the behavior. It actually reinforces the tantrum.

Most of the time, the adults are reinforcing the problem behavior without knowing it. When problem behavior is not reinforced by giving them a reward of any kind, you will begin to see the behavior shaped into more appropriate outcomes.

If the child is displaying tantrum behavior in the classroom, the aide should not remove them from the class and let them look at their favorite movie. That’s reinforcement of the problem behavior. The child actually learned that if they throw a tantrum in the classroom, they get to go outside to go for a walk and look at their favorite movie.

And again, I cannot stress highly enough that you remain calm during an episode. Your behavior should not be reactive. If we, as the parent or professional, model the appropriate behaviors, the child becomes more familiar with what appropriateness looks and feels like, thus becoming more actively engaged in an enjoyable and pleasant environment, allowing for more progress.

An easy way to see if you’re doing a good job is to keep track of the problem behaviors. If they go down, you are succeeding. If they remain the same or increase, you need to reassess what strategies you are using and consistency across environments. Request a copy of the behavior data collection from the school so you can monitor and compare progress between home and school. Ensure the same interventions are taking place throughout the school day.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can work with your school to ensure your child is receiving positive behavior interventions during their school day, schedule a consultation here.

Here’s to your advocacy success!

Valerie Aprahamian


If you haven’t joined our Private Special Education Parent Empowerment Facebook Group yet, you should check it out here.

Here’s what parents are saying about the group:

“Today is a pretty big win for my daughter and I, two years into the process, the district has finally agreed on a 1:1. Thank you Valerie and everyone else on this page for your wealth of knowledge and support! I know it’s not over, but it’s progress!” – Kris Kar

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