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Behavior Modification Techniques

Debopriya Bose Jul 25, 2020
Behavior modification techniques aim at enforcing appropriate behavior in individuals. Let's see the information about the various techniques that are used to teach children and those affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Behavior modification refers to establishing appropriate behavior in individuals and discouraging those that are undesirable. Research over the years has led to the formulation of certain techniques that are used for behavior modification.
The modification techniques are largely based on the principles of operant conditioning developed by B. F. Skinner, an American behaviorist. These techniques are used in behavior modification therapy that aim to correct and instill appropriate behavior in children.

Commonly Used Behavior Modification Techniques

Positive Reinforcement

This refers to reinforcing a desired behavior through the process of rewarding it. This can be done by praising the person as soon as he/she performs a desirable behavior.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement behavioral strategies are based on the removal of a negative consequence or a behavior because the desired behavior was performed. For example, letting a child not help in washing dishes because he behaved well at a family gathering.


This form of behavioral modification technique is something that we all can relate to. However, when put in words, punishment refers to subjecting an individual to a negative condition because of an inappropriate behavior.


Extinction refers to the removal of a reinforcement on the whole. For example, if a mother ignores her child whining, then she is using the technique of extinction to discourage the whining behavior in her child.

Techniques for Children

The techniques for children are based on positive and negative reinforcement. Parents should realize that these techniques can't be solely relied upon for child behavior modification. Some critics of these techniques give forth the argument that since these are based on reinforcements to foster and inhibit behavior, they rob a child of internal motivation.
They say that a child behaves in a particular manner just to get special rewards. Though the proponents of these techniques point out the fact that using these methods lead to quick results, a parent should continuously try to cultivate in his child the ability to appreciate the reason why such a behavior is expected of him.
This can be done through effective communication and greater focus on the parent-child relationship. This helps the child see beyond the material reward that he gets every time he behaves in the 'right' way. Also, as a parent refrain from making the reward a monetary one. Try to make it look more like a privilege than a reward.
This can be done by choosing a reward that would concentrate on benefit of the whole family or other siblings than solely for the benefit of the child. For example, take the family out on a treat, but let the child (who is being rewarded) decide which place to go.
A parent should also be consistent with his technique and apply it whenever there is a chance so that the child gets a clear hint of what is expected and what is not. Although we talk about the role of a parent in bringing positive modification, when it comes to devising behavior modification plans for kids, both parents and teachers are equally important.
Teachers play their role through preventive classroom management, teaching social problem solving skills like alternative thinking, means-end thinking, and continuous monitoring of a child's behavior.

Techniques for ADHD

Besides ensuring proper behavior that is normally expected of a child, behavior techniques are used to solve a number of disorders and problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias.
As far as dealing with children with ADHD is concerned, the techniques remain the same but the efforts increase manifold. Along with the efforts of parents and teachers using various behavior modification techniques, cognitive therapies are also used to treat such children.
The behavior modification plans being used vary as per the age of the child. As a child enters his teens, he becomes all the more sensitive to how he is being treated by his parents or teachers in front of others, and they may overreact to frequent disciplining. Here are a few suggestions for parents who want to modify behavior of children affected by ADHD:
  • Parents need to understand their own tolerance level. Children with ADHD have low attention span and hence, may take longer to finish a task or may skip it altogether. This can be frustrating for a parent, but instead of losing his patience, a parent should encourage the child to complete it.
  • For younger children, time limit can be set for various activities.
  • Engage children in constructive mental activities like solving puzzles and taking quizzes.
  • Be a role model to your child if he has ADHD as these children learn by example more than other kids.
  • Be clear about their tasks throughout the day and always be prompt in rewarding a good behavior.
There are various modification techniques, and professional help available to encourage proper behavior in children. However, there is nothing that can take the place of proper parenting and an affectionate environment.