You have undoubtedly heard the saying, “Kids will be kids”. This saying is based on the reality that sometimes children exhibit bad behaviors and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are bad kids. But some children take this saying to an entirely different level – their behavioral problems become so bad that they are becoming disruptive in school, unresponsive in social situations, or even dangerous to other kids. If your child is exhibiting problem behaviors at school, you may want to talk to his teacher about creating a behavioral intervention plan.
What is a Behavior Intervention Plan?
A behavior intervention plan (BIP) is simply a plan that is designed to reward and reinforce positive behaviors. Behavior intervention plans look different in every instance because they are customized to a specific student and toward specific behaviors. Some of the problem behaviors that a BIP can be used to address may include the following:
- Inappropriate language at school
- Being disruptive in class
- Aggressive behavior toward students and/or teachers
- Becoming withdrawn or unresponsive
- Refusal to do classwork and/or homework
There are several important steps that must be taken in order to develop a behavior intervention plan. For one thing, you need to identify the target behavior(s) that you want to address. Does your child throw things in the classroom? Does he refuse to remain quiet while the teacher is speaking? Does he refuse to do any of his homework or classwork? Once you’ve identified the problem behavior you want to address, you then need to determine what your child gains from this behavior. Why does he do the things he does? Perhaps he throws things in class because he is frustrated that he can’t understand the material. Maybe he acts aggressively toward other students because he has a hard time connecting with other people and making friends.
If your child is exhibiting problematic behaviors in school, he may not even know or understand why he does it. That is why it is up to you as the parent to work with your child’s teachers and the school to conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA). By completing this assessment, you can determine the cause of the problem behavior and, from there, can make a plan to change that behavior. An FBA may involve holding an interview with the child and/or with the child’s teachers and other school staff. Once the FBA is completed, you can start to work on creating a BIP.
How Does a Behavior Intervention Plan Work?
At its core, a behavior intervention plan is a plan that is designed to teach the child positive behaviors through a system of positive reinforcement. The BIP itself describes the behavior being targeted as well as the supposed reasons the behavior occurs – it also outlines the intervention strategies that will be used at school and at home to address the behavior. Here are some of the things that a behavior intervention plan might include:
- Rewarding the child for exhibiting socially acceptable behaviors
- Teaching the child to identify his emotions before acting on them
- Changing the response of teachers and parents to the behavior
- Teaching the child to identify and avoid triggers for problem behavior
- Removing negative stimuli from the child’s environment
In addition to these things, enforcing a behavior intervention plan also involves replacement skills or behaviors – these are behaviors or skills that serve the same purpose as the problem behavior. For example, if the child is acting out by throwing things when he gets frustrated about not understanding the material, a replacement behavior could be raising his hand and asking for help. It may also help to teach the child anger management and coping skills.
Components of a Behavior Intervention Plan
Each behavior intervention plan looks different because each child is different. In order to ensure the success of your plan, however, you need to incorporate certain components which may include the following:
- Preventive strategies and modifications. You must identify problem behaviors as well as their triggers and take steps to prevent them. This may also include modifications to your child’s daily activities to help reduce or prevent the problem behavior.
- Encouragement of appropriate behaviors. In addition to identifying the problem behavior you must create a plan to encourage appropriate behaviors. Verbal praise is very effective – you can also praise other students who exhibit positive behavior to help your child learn what is appropriate and what isn’t.
- Strategies for decreasing inappropriate behaviors. Develop a plan for how to deal with different problem behaviors at different levels of severity. This plan should include first steps for dealing with a problem behavior as well as additional steps to take if that initial step doesn’t work.
- Plan to involve parents. In order for a BIP to be effective, the child’s behavior must be monitored and adjusted at home as well as at school. The school should keep the parents updated on the child’s progress and give them the tools they need to reinforce the BIP at home.
Things to Watch for with a BIP
After you and your child’s school have developed a behavior intervention plan, the next step is to implement it. Depending on the severity of your child’s problems, it could take a while for the plan to really start to work and it will require a lot of hard work and dedication. It is entirely possible that the plan won’t work, as well – this is a reality for which you need to prepare yourself. But what are the reasons that a BIP might not work? Here are a few potential reasons:
- Failure to administer consequences designed to reinforce the development of positive behavioral changes – it is important to address the behavior immediately each time it happens so that the habit can be broken.
- A misunderstanding of the reason behind the targeted behavior – if the BIP is geared toward a specific behavior but there is a mismatch between the behavior and the reason behind it, the BIP won’t work.
- Failure to monitor and update the BIP, especially in terms of rewards and reinforcements for appropriate behavior – what was once new and exciting becomes old and boring which could cause the child to relapse into the targeted behavior.
Implementing a behavior modification plan can be hard work. You, as a parent, need to be on board just as much (or more than) your child’s teacher and school. Once you develop the BIP, you all need to play an active role in enforcing it both at school and at home. Stick to the plan for 2 to 4 weeks while tracking your child’s progress and then review and make any necessary changes to the plan from there. As your child grows and matures, his behavior will change so you may need to make adjustments to the BIP to target new problem behaviors.
Being a parent isn’t easy – especially if you are parent to a child who has behavioral issues. These issues can stem from any number of things including genetics, mental deficits, stress, health problems, and more. But just because your child has some problems doesn’t mean that you can just write them off – it is your job to fight for your child and to make sure that he has the education and the quality of life he deserves. It may take some hard work and a BIP, but you can do it and your child will be all the better for it if you do.