Child Behavior Therapy

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Behavior Therapy for Children

Parents usually seek out psychotherapy services for children who engaged in negative or maladaptive behaviors.  These may be specific behaviors or part of a more common childhood disorder.   Behavior Therapists work with parents to set up a behavior management program within the home, and sometimes within the school, to lessen maladaptive to behaviors and increase positive behaviors. It is important for a Behavior Therapist to involve all caretakers, including parents, babysitters and grandparents in a behavioral management system. It is also important for a Behavior Therapist to involve the school when implementing a multisystemic behavior management program.

Behavior Therapists Reinforce Target Behaviors

Behavior Therapists emphasized the importance of reinforcing positive behaviors. It is important for parents to recognize when their children are engaged in positive behaviors, rather than solely focusing on their negative behaviors. During Behavior Therapy, parents may meet alone with the Behavior Therapist or in conjunction with the child. It is up to the discretion of the Behavior Therapist to decide if the child should be included in all, some or few of the therapy sessions. For some children to have low intellectual functioning, it may be more productive to meet with parents alone to devise the intricate behavioral management system. For older children, or those you are intellectually advanced, they may be included in some sessions, particularly those in which rewards are listed out. Regardless of who attend the sessions, the goal of the behavior management system is to increase positive behaviors and decreased negative ones. The means to achieve this goal is to set up a behavioral management rewards and punishment system.

Behavioral Management Program

The first step in a behavioral management program is to set up a group token system. This involves the Behavior Therapist working with the parent (and child) to make a list of positive behaviors. The positive behaviors should include ones that are easy for the child, one that are somewhat of a struggle, and those that are the most difficult for the child. A certain amount of “points” are assigned to each of the tasks on the behavior list. A smaller amount of points should be given to those tasks which the child finds easy to complete, and a greater amount of points to those that the child finds it more difficult. The list of behavior should include at least 10 behaviors.


The second step to completing a behavioral management program is devising a list of rewards or reinforcers. Behavior Therapist often include the child in the sessions where the rewards are listed, because this is a fine task for children and helps them to understand the behavioral management system that is about to be implemented in his home. The child and the parent together come up with a list of at least 10 rewards. Small rewards, such as extra television time, are assigned a smaller amount of points than larger rewards, such as going on a fishing trip. It is important for that Behavior Therapist to explain to the parents that approximately 2/3 of the points the child earns on any given day should be spent on that same day. This means that’s privileges the child was already given, such as watching television, now must be earned with points. For example, a child must now earn his privilege to watch one hour of television and play on his iPhone after his homework is completed. If two thirds of the points are spent each day, this leaves the child with one third of the points to save up for a larger reward. It is important to break down the rewards in this manner to ensure that the child is receiving reinforcement on a daily basis.

Reward System

Behavior Therapist should emphasize to parents that this reward system should be fun for their children. Parents sometimes find it useful to buy plastic coins and distribute these two the child as earned points. It may be a fun activity for the parent and child to make a bank or bucket where the child is going to store his coins. Another fun way to give pointed by making “behavior bucks,” or fake dollar bills.

Behavior Therapists Coordinate School Contingencies

If the Behavior Therapist has a parent’s consent to involve the school and the behavioral management program, this may enhance the results. A school psychologist may work with the teacher to continue the reward system throughout the school day. This may be done in one of two ways. The school may come up with a separate reward system, in which the child is rewarded at school. Alternatively, the school may use the same reward system as that which is used at home. The child may beaver warded at home for positive behaviors in school. A “home – school note” may be sent to and from school so that the parent and teacher can keep track of the child’s behavior throughout the day. Using a multi-systemic approach to Behavior Therapy is the most effective in treating child behavioral disorders.


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