Here are 5 steps for managing challenging behaviors! I have taught TK-2nd grades self-contained for six years, and let’s face it, challenging behaviors are part of the job. Keep reading about 5 strategies that help me manage challenging behaviors and get students learning.
Step 1: Find the Function
The first step in managing challenging behaviors is to find the function of the behavior. All behavior is communication. Students with challenging behaviors are trying to communicate something in a way that they know how. A great way to find the function of the behavior is through taking ABC data. Arielle shares how to take ABC data in this post.
A great way to remember the different functions of behavior is with the acronym SEAT, which stands for Sensory, Escape, Attention (positive or negative), and Tangible. To learn about how to find the function of a behavior, read this post from Arielle.
Step 2: Structure and Routines
Second, classroom structure and routines are extremely important when managing challenging behaviors. I always have a visual wall schedule and a timer on display at all times throughout the day to minimize student anxiety and behavior. Learn more about getting a center like this started here.
I also use color-coded individual student schedules for all of my students throughout the day. Color coding materials and schedules helps reduce confusion and increases independence in the classroom. Alyssa shares different types of schedules in this post.
See how Whitney color codes her classroom here.
In addition, making sure areas in your classroom, especially centers are clearly defined and labeled is a huge part of classroom setup. For example, in my room, I utilize bookshelves and furniture as well as colored tape to help create defined spaces.
Finally, I teach routines and relationships for two to three weeks before moving on to academics. Not taking the time to work on routines and relationships means constantly managing challenging behaviors throughout the school year.
Alyssa explains in this post why these are so important to tackle at the beginning of the school year.
Step 3: Be Proactive
When managing challenging behaviors in the classroom, it is vital to be proactive. Ways I like to be proactive include:
- Making sure all staff know and follow the behavior support plan (BIP).
- Be ready with visuals at all times: pictures, first/then board, token board, etc.
- Using social stories/narratives to teach appropriate behaviors, self-advocating, or how to calm down.
- Setting up the environment with few distractions, triggers, and visuals.
- Never take any behavior personally!
- Carry a teacher bag everywhere
Inside my teacher bag, I keep:
- Visuals, including a mini first/then board
- Hand Sanitizer and lip balm
- Mini white board and marker
- Small reinforcers and fidgets
- One school walkie talkie and one classroom walkie talkie
Step 4: Replace the Behavior
Now, the most important step – the replacement behavior. Once I figure out the function of the behavior, I pick a replacement behavior. This should produce the same outcome as the challenging behavior.
The replacement behavior needs to be easier to access and more rewarding for the student than the challenging behavior.
I teach replacement behaviors with modeling, visuals, social stories/narratives, and SO MUCH REINFORCEMENT!
Step 5: Use Positive Reinforcement
Once I have chosen the replacement behavior, my team and I reinforce the desired behavior and fade reinforcement of the undesired behavior. You cannot over reinforce a replacement behavior – especially if you want it to work!
Examples of reinforcement are:
- Preferred toys
- High fives
- Verbal praise
- Any preferred special interest
Tip: Do not forget to continue taking data on the challenging behavior and the replacement behavior to show that your interventions are working!
The Only Behavior I Have Control Over is My Own
Managing challenging behaviors can be exhausting and sometimes defeating. I try to remember that the only behavior I have control over is my own. That means, starting each day with a positive mindset and putting the past in the past.
You can do this! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
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