If you have a child who has behavior outbursts, it can leave you desperate for things to try to stop the behavior or reduce its intensity. As a behavior specialist, I have learned many reactive strategies that help to reduce behavior if it is already occurring. Without giving you too much technical terms about ABC data, finding functions of behavior, and setting up a behavior intervention plan, (which you should have a behavior therapist do), here are 5 strategies/consequences you can try when you are in the heat of the moment:
1. Ignore the Behavior. Please know that this means you are not to verbalize the behavior that is happening. If your child is doing something dangerous to himself or others, you obviously have to intervene but you still do not have to draw attention to the actual behavior. This strategy only works if you know that your child is doing this behavior to get attention, even if the attention is negative. You don't want to reinforce inappropriate behavior, so ignore and then also try a strategy below.
2. Redirection. If your child is a acting out, verbally or physically, it is important to redirect her to another task or activity. Instead of focusing on the behavior, focus on what you want her to do next.
3. Decrease Demands. Sometimes, your child becomes frustrated with the task at hand and does not know how to ask for help, so instead, he acts out. Lower the demands that are placed on him. This can include lowering the amount of time he has to be on task before he gets a break. You may just have him work for one more minute. Decrease the number of questions or offer assistance to complete the task together.
4. Decrease Stimulation. Often with children with sensory processing disorders, the environment or setting can be causing your child to demonstrate behaviors. If the setting is too loud, has too many people, too many pictures, or is too lit up or too dark, it may be overstimulating for her. Use headphones, a preferred electronic device like an iPhone or iPad to distract her, or simply take a walk outside or to a quieter location. This may help you get through a trip to a restaurant, family party, supermarket, or store.
5. Use a Calming Down Protocol. It is very important to try to help your child self-regulate and calm down before the behavior escalates to a dangerous situation. Teach him how to take deep breaths, fold his hands to avoid hitting/punching, count to a designated number, close his eyes, go for a walk, etc. You can also try some sensory integration in your protocol like deep pressure or light scratching on the arms if your child is calmed by this.