What Is a Behavior Modification Plan?

A behavior modification plan is a program that establishes the framework, steps and goals necessary to modify negative behaviors exhibited by children. The plan delineates a discipline strategy that employs four separate components: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment and negative punishment.

To set up an effective behavior modification plan, a parent or a person in charge of the plan, such as a counselor, must determine which negative behaviors to modify and which positive behaviors to foster. Once these elements have been established, it is necessary to set specific goals and create a contract through which the child gets rewarded for accomplishing them. The reward can be in the form of positive reinforcement, indicating that the child receives something for his endeavor, or negative reinforcement, meaning that some unpleasant element gets removed.

Punishments are also part of behavior modification plans, as they can prevent a child from engaging in negative behavior once he associates that behavior with the punishment. However, applying a severe method of punishment can have a detrimental effect, because the child might become more aggressive toward parents or a behavioral specialist instead of learning to modify the negative behaviors that led to the punishment. Similar to the reinforcements, a positive punishment indicates that an unpleasant consequence is introduced as a reaction to a negative behavior, whereas negative punishment involves taking away something the child enjoys.