prevent problem behavior
4 min · Special Needs
July 26, 2023

Preventing and Decreasing Problem Behaviors

Problem behaviors are behaviors that generally negatively affects education, learning, and skill-developing process of the child or that cause children to hurt themselves or others around them. These types of behaviors generally occur during pre-school education or school age. Unless precautions are taken, they may negatively affect development of children. Although problem behaviors show before the age of 10, they may be seen at every stage of childhood. There may be many reasons to these behaviors. Many factors such as psychological features of the child, what they go through in family environment, situations that cause them to not fit in school, bad role models, mass media effects and many other factors cause children to acquire problem behaviors that are repetitive.

Impacts of Problem Behaviors

  • Hindering learning and skill-development
  • Hindering adaptation to social environment
  • Alienation by peers
  • Not being able to use abilities and acquire new ones
  • Interruption in social development

Causes of Problem Behaviors

There may be many reasons to why children develop problem behaviors. As stated, situations caused by parents, school or other external influences may cause repetitive negative behaviors. However, factors that lead these behaviors to occur should be differentiated from the reasons why children show these behaviors. Children generally show problem behavior because of:

  • Not being able to express themselves
  • To get attention
  • To achieve something they want
  • Feeling inefficiency
  • Obstinateness
  • Not liking the environment or incoordination
  • Presence of someone that’s not liked
  • Presence of something that’s not liked

Due to these factors, children repeat what’s called problem behaviors. What teachers should do in this situation is to determine the cause of the behavior and eliminating the cause or helping children accept the situation.

behavior problems

What to Do to Prevent Problem Behaviors

Above all, the cause of the repetitive problem behavior should be determined and this cause should be eliminated. For instance, cartoons and other TV programs might negatively affect children. These programs cause children to take bad role models. If there is a problem relating to mass media, the child’s relation to these mass media should be terminated.

Changing problem behaviors may require consultation to experts. However, teachers are the ones that should be making the first interference. If there is no sign of psychological situation like hyperactivity, problem behaviors of the child are caused by the interaction with his parents, friends, teachers and the environment or mass media. Teacher should first determine the cause and act towards changing the behavior. There are certain methods to change behavior.

Behavior Changing Methods

If one or more of children show negative behavior, what teacher has to do first is to prevent these behaviors from being repeated and continued. However, fear should never be used in order to achieve this. Although physical or psychological violence seem to prevent these behaviors in the short term, they may cause much bigger crisis in the long run. They may even cause children to have life long traumas that would haunt them. Thus, behaviors that would impose fear in children should be avoided, children should be positively motivated and the continuity of the behavior should be interrupted and changed.

  1. Breaking Behavior Chain

As stated, one of the most efficient ways of preventing problem behaviors is to eliminate the continuity of the behavior. This would only be possible with the method of breaking behavior chain.

Intimacy control is the first action of breaking behavior chain. Teacher here tries to calmly communicate with the child here. Noise in the classroom, general addressing of the teacher may have caused children to be negatively motivated and repeat behavior patterns. However, teacher communicating with the child can break this behavior chain.

Removing stimuli that trigger problem behaviors to repeat is also efficient to break behavior pattern. For instance, if there were an object in the environment that causes the child to react, it would be efficient to replace this object. If the child is suffering from a disorder like obsession with symmetry, placing objects symmetrically may help. Removing or replacing the stimuli may prevent the occurrence of behaviors and help breaking negative behavior chain.

However, the best way to break behavior chain is the right communication the teacher makes with the student. When the child, who is exhibiting problem behavior, is communicated in a positive way and offered solutions, the behavior can be averted. Here, the child should not be blamed or held accountable no matter what; the purpose should be understanding the antecedents of the behaviors and removing them or decreasing the reaction.

  1. Reinforcement

Reinforcement method can help the child to be positively motivated and prevent problem behavior. The main purpose of reinforcement is to reduce inappropriate behavior and instead, help the child acquire positive and appropriate behavior. With reinforcement, there is a process of preventing and decreasing behaviors. After the steps listed below, negative behaviors of the child can be eliminated and replaced with positive behaviors. It is extremely important to carry this reinforcement process out meticulously.

  • Differential Reinforcement
  • Deflation
  • Withdrawing Liked Stimulus

Reinforcement process is carried out parallel to a reward-punishment system. However, the punishment should never be an element that badly affects the child. For instance, if a liked stimulus is given as a reward, when the child does not behave positively, the punishment can be depriving him of this stimulus. However, if this is affecting the child’s psychological health, the method should be revised.


  • Selma Güleç, Seçil Alkış, “Öğretmenlerin Sınıf Ortamında Kullandıkları Davranış Değiştirme Stratejileri”, Uludağ Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.