What are Behavior Modification Plans?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 December 2019
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Behavior modification plans are a type of psychological method used to change negative behaviors, and reinforce positive behaviors. This is used for adults in therapy who want to change specific behaviors, but it is most often used in schools and with younger children to modify negative behaviors over time. Some of the most common behavior modification plans feature a system of rewards or recognition for good behavior, in the theory that the individual will then be more likely to repeat the good behavior rather than the poor behavior, whatever that may be. This method takes time, but is generally considered to be very effective.

As a rule, behavior modification plans all make use of positive reinforcement to alter behavior, rather than negative reinforcement, which is another method sometimes used to change behavior. It is best to discuss positive reinforcement with an example. Teachers or parents will often use behavior modification with children through a "chart and reward" system, in which the behaviors the child must work on are listed in plain view. For instance, if a child is supposed to raise his or her hand before talking at school, the teacher might reward this behavior when it occurs by placing a sticker on a chart. When the child accumulates five or ten stickers, he or she might get a reward, though some just use the stickers as rewards in themselves.


Parents often use similar behavior modification plans through the creation of chore charts, for example. It is important to scale back on the rewards as time goes by, however, to ensure that children are actually changing their behavior, and not just doing it for the reward. Of course, not all behavior modification plans need to involve rewards; some educators or parents find that having regular discussions with children about behavior, encouraging positive behavior with enthusiastic verbal recognition, and even role-playing various scenarios, such as for conflict resolution, can be effective.

This method of behavior change can be beneficial as well because it helps the child to learn additional skills for communication and dealing with others, and to address the root cause of the behavior, which can better lead to lasting change. Behavior modification techniques in adults are similar, and are based on identifying the negative behavior, the environments or triggers that cause the behavior, and the skills that need to be developed in order to change the behavior. Being as specific as possible in all behavior modification plans is important to ensure their success.



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