Skip to content →

Strategies to Promote Positive Behaviors

Photo Credit: Jessica West,

By Leonora Ryland

The aim of Positive Behavior Support (PBS), also called Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) in schools, is to improve the quality of life of children/students by promoting evidence-based practices. PBS strives to increase desirable behavior of children and decreasing undesirable or challenging behaviors (Association of Positive Behavior Support, 2020). Let’s delve into some practical strategies to support increasing desirable behavior or promoting positive behaviors (Center on PBIS’s Supporting Families with PBIS at Home or Version en espanol). Throughout this blog, there will be links if you are interested in learning more about a given topic (Michigan Alliance for Families: Introduction to Positive Behavior Support webinar).

1. Establishing Expectations and Plan for Routines

It is important to know your child’s abilities and limitations. Expecting too much or too little can lead to frustration for you and your child. Try to keep your expectations realistic!

  • Clear Expectations and Routines. Most children thrive when there are routines and structure. Establishing 3-5 expectations or “house rules”, in child-friendly language along with routines aligned to those overarching expectations (to help determine where your household currently is, feel free to complete APBS’ Positive Behavior Support Setting Checklist). The more consistent the routines and schedule, the easier positive behaviors will be and a decrease in frequency and/or severity of challenging behaviors. Even physical arrangement and organization of house environment could support children’s prosocial behavior (Parenting Special Needs’ [PSN] Household Organization).
  • Plan Ahead. Try to anticipate what your child may do or may need in various situations. Plan ahead to set your child up for a successful experience. Hope for the best, but always have a backup plan. Plan ahead! Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning’s (CSEFEL) Family Routine Guide will help you think through some guided questions: Why do you think they might be doing this? What can you do to prevent the problems behavior? What can you do if the problem behavior occurs? What new skills should you teach?
  • Use Neutral Time. “Neutral” time is a time when your child is calm, and you are calm; it is a great time to teach your child what to do.

2. Reward with Positive Feedback

Strive for a 5 positive interactions or praise statements for every 1 negative interaction or corrective statement. Examples of positive interactions include earning checks/sticker/etc. toward a preferred reward (sleepover, special movie night, dance party), listening attentively as child talks about whatever they want, smile or hug.

  • “Catch” Your Child Being Good. Give specific, positive attention to your child for the behavior that you want to see and teach your child what to do! (PSN’s Improving Behavior One Interaction at a Time). You want to give attention to behavior you want to see, giving that attention will increase likelihood of it occurring again.
  • Use Reinforcement. Even for nonpreferred activities or tasks, you can reward progress, getting started on a task, or completing the first step or two of tasks in order to build momentum. (PSN’s Helping Children Succeed at things they’d rather not do).

3. Redirection

Redirection provides guidance to children when they are misbehaving, redirecting children can be a prevention strategy. You can use redirection to interrupt a challenging behavior and redirecting a child to another activity using either physical or verbal redirection.

  • Physical Redirection. A physical redirection interrupts the child’s challenging behavior and re-engages the child in a more appropriate activity.
  • Verbal Redirection. A verbal redirection distracts the child and provides an alternative activity.
  • Redirection for Teaching. Redirection can also be used to prompt a child to use an appropriate skill.

Example: A child begins to have a tantrum because he is frustrated with putting a toy together.

The parent says to the child, “Evan, you can say, ‘Help please.’”

Evan says, “Help please,” and the parent then puts the toy together.

  • Say “First”. “First you put on your shoes. Then you can go outside.” This is a contingency statement (First-Then). A “first-then” statement is a simple instruction that tells your child what to do in order to do something that he/she wants to do.

First you pick up your toys, then you can have a snack.”

First you finish getting dressed, then you can play outside/on tablet/on phone.”

4. Logical Consequences & Reasonable Choices

Some ways to support and guide children in learning how they are expected to behave at home and in the real world. Two methods in guiding children include using logical consequences and presenting limited, reasonable choices (CSELEF’s Parent Training Modules).

  • Logical Consequences. Logical consequences are an alternative to punishment. Logical consequences must be practical and enforced. Logical consequences help guide children in learning how they are expected to behave in the real world. It may be helpful to list some problem behavior incidents you have seen your children have or that commonly occur and write down possible logical consequences.
  • Present Limited, Reasonable Choices. Most children are not born with a built-in ability to make decisions and then to accept the consequences. Learning to take responsibility for actions requires lots of support and practice. A good way to help your child develop these skills is to offer limited, reasonable choices throughout the day.
  • Stay Calm. When a child’s behavior is challenging, you can either respond to it or ignore it. If reaction is necessary, remember that less is usually best.

What Next?

Do not forget to use positive comments and encouragement for those behaviors you want to see! Please be gracious (to others and yourself). Additional resources are available from: Center for Parent Information & Resources and APBS’ Ten Positive Behavior Support Strategies to Support Families at Home.



Association for Positive Behavior Support [apbs]. (n.d.). Getting started with positive behavior support at home for family members.

Association for Positive Behavior Support [apbs]. (n.d.). Positive Behavior Support setting checklist.

Association for Positive Behavior Support [apbs]. (n.d.). Ten Positive Behavior Support strategies to support families at home.

Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (2020, March 31). Supporting families with PBIS at home.

Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (2020, March 31). Supporting families with PBIS at home (version en espanol).

Hieneman, M. (2012, March 1). Let’s get a good night’s sleep [Online forum post]. Parenting Special Needs Magazine.

Hieneman, M. (2014, Jul/Aug). Reinforcement: Improving behavior one interaction at a time. Parenting Special Needs.

Hieneman, M. & Fefer, S. (2012, May/June). Helping children succeed at things they’d rather not do. Parenting Special Needs.

Hieneman, M. & Seaton, A. (2015, Jan/Feb). Household organization. Parenting Special Needs.

Lentini, R. & Fox, L. (n.d.) Family routine guide [Training]. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning.

Michigan Alliance for Families (2016, October 9). Intro to PBS – A Michigan Alliance for families webinar [Video]. YouTube.

The Center for Parent Information & Resources (2017, September 14). Using positive methods for change at home.

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning [csefel]. (n.d.). Resources: Parent training modules.




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Published in Behavior PBIS/PBS


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *