How to Deal With Your Child’s Challenging Behaviour

One method of dealing with challenging behaviour in children is to use the Antecendent-Behaviour-Consequence (ABC) Model.


Here’s what the model is all about:

Antecendent: The trigger for the event, what happens before the challenging behaviour takes place.

The action. In the case of challenging behaviour, this is the problem that we are trying to address.
Consequence: What happens after the the behaviour, be it a positive or negative consequence.Here’s an example:
Sally is eating ice cream. She drops the ice-cream on the floor, cries, and Daddy gets her another ice cream. In this case the Antecendent is dropping the ice cream on the floor, the Behaviour is crying in response, and the Consequence is getting another ice cream. If this carries on for a few times, Sally will learn that crying will get her the positive consequence that she wants.

How do we use the ABC model then? We need to change the A, B or C in the flowchart.Changing the Antecendent:

  • Give short and specific instructions, for example ‘turn off the TV and come to the bathroom for a bath’.
  • Make sure that you have gained your child’s attention before giving the instruction, use confident body language/voice while delivering the instruction and wait for a response from your child.

Changing the Behaviour:

  • Provide alternate behaviours.
  • Instead of just shouting ‘Stop doing that!’, first specify what behaviour you would like to change, then specify what behaviour you would like to see instead.
  • Communicate this alternate behaviour clearly to the child.
  • An example: ‘Don’t run and come walk slowly next to Mummy’.

Changing the Consequence:

  • We are most familiar with this. Instead of giving in to the child all the time, we can institute positive or negative consequences.
  • Positive consequences include:
    – Specific praise (to be done as soon as good behaviour takes place, not an hour, a day or a week later!),
    – Rewards,
    – Access to favourite activity (eg. playground),
    – Removal of unpleasant tasks (eg. cleaning the room)
  • Negative consequences include:
    – Planned ignoring (warn first, then use whole body language, persevere in ignoring, and expect escalation of emotions in your child!!),
    – Removal of desired objects and activities,
    – Time out,
    – Natural consequences (eg. minor scrapes and scratches due to doing things dangerously – use your discretion for this!)

Of course, challenging behaviour is not something that can be corrected overnight, so persevere!


  • Behaviour is but just a way that your child is using to communicate with you.
  • Challenging behaviour usually has a trigger.
  • The pattern of behaviour over a period of time is always more important than single or isolated events.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s