Why Your Behavior Plan Isn't Working (Part 3 of 3)

You have a behavior plan that is more concrete and specific with a “short distance” between behavior and reward, you’ve framed your statements to be more positive, and you’ve upped the labeled praises. But your behavior plan still is not working!

There are many other reasons why your behavior plan may not be working – and here is an in-depth and well-cited breakdown for building an effective behavior plan. For this post, I’m going to focus on one key reason.


Naturally, when you give out punishments or withhold praise/rewards until the desired behavior occurs, your child will likely react negatively. And yes, this rule goes for older children and teenagers who agreed to the plan in the first place.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

What do they do? They plea with you, get angry, negotiate, pout, scream at you, throw a tantrum, slam the door, cry, make a scene, tell you how much they hate you and what a bad parent you are, and engage in any number of challenging behaviors.

Your child might have learned that reacting in such a way gets him what he wants. Please do not confuse your child’s behavior with being manipulative. He is engaging in the same behaviors that worked in the past, but now, you’re changing the rules after weeks, months, or years of doing things one way. We can’t be mad at him for that.

But, whatever you do, DO NOT CAVE. Let me follow my own advice and put that in the positive: STICK TO THE PLAN. Inconsistency is behavior plan kryptonite.

How to Stick to the Plan

  1. Follow through. If the deal is that your child has to brush his teeth before watching cartoons, then the TV stays off until every tooth is brushed. If your child is supposed to complete his homework after school before going on the computer/using social media/getting his cell phone for the day, then every assignment must be finished before access to electronics is permitted.
  2. Write it down. To make your life easier, write down the behavior plan and even put copies where your child is expected to follow the plan. For example, put a copy in the bathroom if there is a plan around morning routine; put a copy on his desk if there is a plan around on-task behavior in school. If your child is too young to read or has difficulty reading, feel free to use pictures.

The point is, as the parent or teacher, you can rely on the plan. Not only is it a contract between you and your child, but it is a contract between you and yourself.

Advanced Move: Reframing the Problem

If your child or student is not complying with your request, it is likely difficult for him. Sure, it’s easy for you or even most of his peers, but getting angry with your child because he should be able to get to bed, do his homework, or call you when he arrives at his destination, will not help your cause. If your child is not able to follow through, something is getting in his way