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Behavior Plans for Oppositional Children

by Amy Morin, studioD

Whether your child says, "No!" when you tell him to clean his room or he pretends not to hear you when you say, "Stop banging that toy on the floor," oppositional behavior can be difficult to deal with. It's normal for kids to be oppositional at times, as they test adults' reactions and attempt to assert their independence. Developing a behavior plan ensures that caregivers have a clear discipline strategy to reduce oppositional behavior.

The Purpose of Behavior Plans

A behavior plan assists parents, teachers, daycare providers and other caregivers in responding consistently to oppositional behavior. A behavior plan clearly states which discipline techniques caregivers should use. Behavior plans should outline what rewards the child will receive for complying and what consequences will result from oppositional behavior. Caregivers should also share the plan with the child so that the child is aware of the consequences. When all caregivers respond systematically, it can increase the chances that the child will comply.

Managing Oppositional Behavior

Oppositional behavior can cause a lot of frustration among caregivers. And when caregivers don't respond calmly and consistently, they may unknowingly be reinforcing the oppositional behavior. If a child refuses to pick up his toys after being told repeatedly to pick them up, his mother may eventually give up and pick up the toys for him. As a result, the child learns that oppositional behavior is effective. A behavior plan outlines what negative consequences will result from oppositional behavior. Consistent discipline techniques among caregivers reduces power struggles and increases compliance.

Positive Incentives

Kids who behave in an oppositional manner need incentives to be compliant. Often, they enjoy the attention they receive when adults argue with them or when adults engage in a power struggle with them. Provide an oppositional child with lots of positive attention and praise for good behaviors. Say, "Great job putting your dish in the sink right when I asked you to," and he'll be motivated to do it again. Reward programs, like sticker charts for younger kids and point systems for older kids can be effective. Provide stickers or points for compliance that can later be exchanged for extra privileges or larger rewards.

Negative Consequences

A behavior plan should outline the negative consequences for oppositional behavior. Provide one warning that explains the consequence for non-compliance. Say, "If you don't pick up your shoes right now, you will have to go to time-out." The behavior plan should clearly state how many minutes will be spent in time-out and the consequence for refusing to serve a time-out. If a child refuses time-out, privileges such as playing outside or watching TV can be removed. A behavior plan should outline whether privileges at school or daycare will be removed immediately or if the child will receive an at-home consequence that parents will address.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

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