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What to do When Your Child or Student MisBehaves (Step by Step)

In the world of behavior modification, there’s something called a “behavior intervention plan.” It’s what we use to eliminate a specific behavior in a child.

To be exact, it’s a written step-by-step plan that behavior specialists make for teachers/parents to follow. It has what to do if the child acts in a desired way, as well as what to do if the child acts in an undesired way. Every behavior intervention plan is unique to a certain child in a certain setting for a certain behavior.

They’re pretty specific!

Below is an example of what a BIP might look like. They seem simple to make, but there’s actually quite a bit of observation and evaluation done before creating one.

Also, for them to be effective, they have to be implemented without flaw, every single time.

Here’s a look at a sample:


[Child’s Name] Behavior Intervention Plan
Targeted Behavior: Following Instructions

Every morning, and in between every behavior, take these actions with the child:

TEACH what the expectations are and how to meet them (be specific)
SUPPORT them when they start to struggle by providing reminders and offering help
REACT to any negative behavior with consistent but respectful consequences
RETRY what they did wrong so they gain “muscle memory” of correct actions.

Things that will change in this BIP over time:

This BIP will be left unchanged for two weeks. After two weeks, all adults involved will reconvene to determine whether or not it is effective, and what changes should be made, if any.

Purpose of this BIP:

Increase positive relationship between child and adult
Increase positive momentum in child’s progress
Prevent potential “blow-ups” from happening
Make behaviors as short-lived as possible
Foster the leadership qualities that are naturally in this particular child
Teach child’s peers how they can encourage him/her in positive behavior (as opposed to chastising or ostracizing).
Provide motivation for child to not “tank” the entire day

If child becomes unsafe (runs away, hits/kicks, throws things), follow emergency procedures.

Common unsafe behaviors for this particular child: Running to escape, physical contact made in anger, self harm, unsafe use of property.

Positive reinforcers observed for this particular child: personal praise (not social praise), token economy/star chart, free time, one-on-one time w/adult, or getting a shortened chore list

Negative reinforcers observed for this particular child: Having chores added to chore list, removal of toys, having to walk laps instead of playing on equipment

Step 1: Implementer will state a directive: “Time to get started,” “We need to get busy,” “Please try doing…” etc.

(Child follows the directive or completes the task.)

Step 2: Deliver descriptive feedback (“I know that wasn’t easy for you, but you did it anyway. Great job!” – It needs to look and sound like you mean it) and other personal praise. Praise should be given with close proximity because this particular child is embarrassed by being publicly acknowledged.

Step 3: Present a star for the star chart

*Stars: Child needs to earn 25 stars each day to receive small prize, or can accumulate stars for bigger prize.

Negative reinforcers are earned when child has failed to:
Follow directions with support
Be safe with body and objects
Use an appropriate voice tone
Use kind words

Positive reinforcers are earned when child has successfully chosen to:
Stay calm, even if grumpy about it
Follow directions
Help others
Follow safety procedures
Use an appropriate voice tone
Use kind words
Say “okay”

IF CHILD DOES NOT COMPLY after step 1, then follow these steps:

Step 2: Repeat directive, remind child he/she has 2 minutes to start following instructions before a negative reinforcer is given. Then remind child of the positive reinforcements he/she is working for on this particular day (at eye level). “Remember, you’re working for a Starburst right now.” Use neutral language and tone.

(Offer Help Line option.)

If compliance is not reached by two minutes, give a negative reinforcer. Example: “You chose not to follow instructions before two minutes was up so you’ve earned an extra chore before getting to go outside for play time.”

Step 3: State the directive again (at eye level, not loudly). If child still does not comply, start behavior timer. Every 2 minutes, Repeat Step 2.

Step 4: Continue praising and prompting every 2 minutes until compliance is reached.

Once it’s over, let the child know he/she starts fresh after this and will start earning stars/rewards again. Try to find something to give him/her a star for right away. (“You looked at my eyes when I was talking. Great job. Put a star on your chart.)

Remind child that his/her consequences from disobeying are still in effect (such as the earning of extra chores or the loss of privilege time), but that you care about him/her and want to help him/her do better next time.

Step 5: If child complies at any point during this, reward him/her with verbal praise and a voice tone that conveys forgiveness and grace. “Great job. I know that was hard for you. You’ve earned a star, and now we can move on!”

Examples of help lines:

Sensory Break
Ask a Friend
Parent/Teacher Assistance
Calm Down Time
Nap/Rest Time
Ask My Buddy
Move My Seat


So that’s what a BIP might look like for a public school system! It might also provide you with some good ideas for how to work with your kids on their behavior.

Remember to be consistent every time, but open to change if it still isn’t working after a few weeks!

Good luck, guys.

What to do When Your Child or Student MisBehaves (Step by Step)

W. R. Cummings

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APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2018). What to do When Your Child or Student MisBehaves (Step by Step). Psych Central. Retrieved on January 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 7 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 May 2018
Published on All rights reserved.