September 5


Stop Bad Habits in Their Tracks: Your First Step for Behavior Modification Success

By Joshua Turner

September 5, 2023

When it comes to behavior modification, the first step in decreasing unwanted behavior is to identify the behavior that needs to be changed. It may seem obvious, but being specific about the behavior that needs to be modified is necessary.

For example, if a child throws tantrums, identify the specific behavior that needs addressing, such as yelling, hitting, or throwing objects. Once the behavior has been identified, establish a baseline for the behavior. It means observing the behavior in its natural context and recording how often it occurs, lasts, and any other relevant details.

Understanding behavior is a step in behavior modification. It includes understanding the function of the behavior or why it is occurring. A child may throw tantrums because they seek attention or try to avoid a task. Understanding the behavior’s function makes it possible to develop an effective intervention.

Key Takeaways

  • The first step in behavior modification is to identify the specific behavior that needs to be modified.
  • Understanding the function of the behavior is crucial in developing an effective intervention.
  • Establishing a baseline for the behavior is important in measuring progress and determining the effectiveness of the intervention.

Understanding Behavior

Behavior modification procedures are practical tools for decreasing unwanted behaviors. However, before implementing these procedures, understand the behavior you want to change. Behavior refers to any observable and measurable action that can be influenced by various factors such as environment, emotions, and genetics.

Human behavior is a complex process, and it involves learning through experiences. For example, if a child is rewarded for good behavior, they are more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. On the other hand, if a child is punished for bad behavior, they are less likely to repeat that behavior.

To effectively use behavior modification procedures, you need to know what triggers and reinforces the behavior. You can get this information through observation, interviews, and data collection. Once you understand the behavior well, you can develop a plan to modify it.

Behaviors can change over time, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, tailor behavior modification procedures to each individual’s needs and circumstances. You can successfully decrease unwanted behaviors and promote positive ones with patience, consistency, and a good understanding of behavior.

Types of Reinforcements

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a behavior modification technique that provides a reward or praise to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior being repeated. This type of reinforcement involves adding a stimulus to the environment that the individual finds pleasant or rewarding. For example, a child who cleans their room may receive a piece of candy as a reward.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is a technique that involves removing an unpleasant stimulus from the environment to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior being repeated.

For example, a child who completes their homework may be allowed to skip doing the dishes that night. This technique involves removing something unpleasant to reinforce the desired behavior.


Understanding the different types of reinforcements is vital when using behavior modification procedures to decrease a behavior. Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are used to increase the likelihood of a desired behavior being repeated. Choose the appropriate type of reinforcement based on the individual’s behavior and the desired outcome.

Behavior Modification

Functional Analysis

Before starting behavior modification procedures, it is essential to conduct a functional analysis to identify the cause of the behavior. It involves observing behavior in different environments and situations to determine what triggers the behavior and its consequences. Conducting a functional analysis can help you identify the function of the behavior and develop a behavior plan that addresses the underlying cause.

Behavior Plan

Once you have conducted a functional analysis, the next step is to develop a behavior plan. A behavior plan is a written document that outlines the steps you will take to decrease the problem behavior and increase the desired behavior.

The behavior plan should include a clear description of the problem behavior, the desired behavior, the type of reinforcement that will be used, and the consequences for both desirable and undesirable behavior. It should also include behavior management strategies, such as providing feedback and performance monitoring.

Behavior Management

Behavior management involves providing feedback on the person’s behavior and the consequences of their actions. It also involves using positive reinforcement to increase desirable behavior and extinction to decrease problem behavior. Attention is powerful, so providing positive attention to desirable behavior can effectively increase the likelihood that behavior will occur again.

Behavior modification procedures can be an effective way to decrease problem behavior and increase desirable behavior. Conducting a functional analysis, developing a behavior plan, and implementing behavior management strategies can address the underlying cause of the problem behavior and promote positive behavior change.


When implementing behavior modification procedures to decrease problem behavior, the first step is to select the appropriate intervention. The intervention should focus on increasing desirable behavior while reducing the problem behavior.

Behavior analysis is used to identify the problem behavior’s function, which helps select the appropriate intervention. The behavior modification plan should be tailored to the individual and their specific needs.

Interventions can include positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and extinction. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desirable behavior, while negative reinforcement involves removing an unpleasant stimulus for desirable behavior. Punishment involves providing an undesirable consequence for problem behavior, while extinction involves removing the reinforcement for problem behavior.

Punishment should be used sparingly and only in extreme cases. Positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement are often more effective and have fewer negative side effects.

Selecting the appropriate intervention is crucial in behavior modification procedures. Using behavior analysis to identify the function of the problem behavior and tailoring the behavior modification plan to the individual’s needs can lead to more successful outcomes.


The first step when using behavior modification procedures to decrease behavior is to identify the target behavior. It involves defining the behavior in clear and specific terms, such as “biting nails” or “interrupting others.” Once the target behavior has been identified, collect baseline data to determine the frequency and severity of the behavior.

Food can be used as positive reinforcement to encourage the desired behavior. For example, if a child has a habit of interrupting others, giving them a treat when they wait their turn to speak can reinforce the desired behavior. However, it is important to use food in moderation to avoid over-reliance and potential health risks.

Psychology is necessary in behavior modification. Understanding the underlying reasons for the behavior and addressing any underlying psychological issues is important. It can involve counseling or therapy to help the individual overcome any emotional or mental barriers contributing to the behavior.

Punishments should be used sparingly and only as a last resort. Instead, positive reinforcement should be the primary tool used to encourage the desired behavior. Punishments can create negative associations and may lead to resentment or rebellion.

Behavior modification is a complex process that requires patience, consistency, and a thorough understanding of the individual and their behavior. By following the steps outlined in this article, individuals can effectively decrease unwanted behaviors and improve their quality of life.

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