Category Archives: January 2015

Dealing With Escape/Avoidant Behavior

TIP: Dealing With Escape/Avoidant Behavior

In the last Piece of the Puzzle Tip we discussed strategies for dealing with negative behavior used to obtain a desired item. Hopefully over the past few weeks you have had many opportunities to implement those strategies and have begun to see a decrease in the use of negative behavior to obtain these items. This week we will take a look at how to handle behavior your child uses to get out of something or to avoid doing something they don’t want to do. Again, understand that behavior is used to communicate! It’s our job to ensure they are learning the correct way to communicate their wants and needs.

The best way to illustrate these strategies is by providing a scenario:

  • Scenario – Your child is playing with toys and you ask them to clean up their toys to come to the table and complete an art activity/craft. Your child immediately starts crying and throwing the toys into the bucket to clean up. When they get to the table they swipe all the craft materials onto the floor. How do you react? What do you do?
    • First, think about the function of the behavior! Your child is communicating that they do not want to do the art activity/craft. Be sure the strategy you implement does not allow them to escape the demand that you placed on them OR you will be teaching your child that this is an effective way to communicate their wants. So, time-out would NOT be an effective strategy to deal with this behavior – you would actually be reinforcing the child because you would remove them from the activity that they are trying to escape.
    • Second, make sure to follow through with the demand! You want to communicate to your child that their negative behavior will not remove the demand to complete the activity. Even after your child’s negative behavior and crying, continue to repeat the demand that caused the behavior (“come to the table and do an art activity/craft). Place more paper, crayons, glue, etc. on the table and hand over hand prompt your child to begin the activity. Give verbal cues for any appropriate behavior or compliance. Continue to give hand over hand prompts until your child participates in the activity with only verbal directives or independently. If your child calms down and complies with directives, differentially reinforce so the most desired behavior receives the greatest reinforcement! Continue providing reinforcement for participation and compliance until the activity is complete.
    • Third, require your child to clean up the mess they made by swiping the materials onto the floor. Verbally reinforce them for completing the activity, then let them know they need to take responsibility for their behavior. (“Good job making the gingerbread house. Now you need to clean up all the things on the floor and put them back on the table.”)  Again, use hand over hand prompts to clean up if needed, but fade prompts until they independently clean up. Require them to keep cleaning it up until they willingly participate.

The most important thing to remember is that your child’s negative behavior should not allow them to avoid or escape the original demand that was placed on them. Be sure the strategies you use do not accidentally reinforce their behavior by delaying their compliance to the demand. After they comply make sure they are responsible for any necessary clean up that their behavior caused. BE CONSISTENT…..and PERSISTENT! As your child learns that negative behavior will not get them out of complying with daily demands, you will begin to see a decrease in these behaviors for that function.

If you have any specific scenarios that you want to share or ask questions about email