Effective Strategies to Handle Challenging Behaviors in Children

Date of Publishing:   

22 May, 2023


Behavioral Challenges



12 Strategies for Prevention of Challenging Behaviors

Parenting can be a demanding and challenging journey for parents. One of the most tough parts of it is raising a child who shows challenging behaviors like having tantrums, behaving aggressively, and other behaviors which parents not only find it difficult to deal with but at times it can be overwhelming for them. It becomes hard for parents to understand how to respond to these behaviors in a way that will help the child learn and grow.

After delivering 10475 sessions and working with more than 100 parents, Team Butterfly Learnings has prepared strategies that are used in Applied Behavior Analysis that parents can implement to handle challenging behaviors in a constructive and effective way.


In this blog, we will explore strategies that are research-based and advice that are provided by our clinical experts. These are some practical tips and insights for parents that should consider using when their child shows challenging behaviors. 

Here are 12 strategies that are effective in prevention for challenging behaviors:

  1. Avoid people, place situations that triggers behavior
  2. Modify the environment as per child's needs
  3. Make the task short
  4. Organize the tasks in a sequential order
  5. Respond to early signs
  6. Respond differently
  7. Address the triggering event
  8. Use Visual and Auditory Support
  9. Give your child a break
  10. Provide Reinforcement for Free
  11.  Easy, Easy, Then Difficult
  12. Teach Functional Communication Skills

1) Avoid people, place situations that triggers behavior

Once you figure out the antecedent, you can make your child avoid people, places or situations, so he doesn't engage in challenging behaviors. 

Let's say when you go to buy groceries with your child, and you know in the side lane there is a shop which sells chocolates for which the child may show behaviors. 

Avoid going to that lane with your child. 

If there is a dairy in the same lane. You can go there and buy items when your child is at home if there is no rush.


2) Modify the environment as per child's needs

Making changes in the environment helps the child adapt to it. When all the triggering factors are removed, he can perform the task easily without crying or throwing tantrums.

3) Make the task short

To make a task short and simple, you have to divide it into steps. Make your child follow one step at a time. Give breaks of 5-10 minutes in between of the tasks. Again resume and complete the task. 

Giving breaks initially will not make the child uncomfortable and little bit relaxation makes them continue the rest of the task. 

When you see the child mastering the steps, you can merge 2 steps and increase the duration a little.

Another thing you must do is to give the child positive reinforcement. The child feels encouraged and gradually develops the ability to perform the task for a longer period.

4) Organize the tasks in a sequential order

Organizing a task or a set of tasks in a sequential order is very crucial. 

The reason why many children show behaviors is because the task causes confusion or overwhelms them. Parents eventually give up as well.

So carefully organize the task in a way you and your child are able to do it more effectively and both of you will be able to complete it easily. 

5) Respond to early signs 

One of the most significant benefits of collecting ABC data is that it provides critical knowledge about the child's behavior, especially on the early signs prior to the behavior. 

Responding to early signs of a behavior allows you to reduce the intensity of challenging behavior and stop it entirely before it begins.

6) Respond differently

Respond differently to challenging behavior. Suppose the playtime is over, instead of snatching toys; the parent can gently remind the child 'after five minutes we will wrap up the toys'.

7) Address the triggering event

The continuation or reduction of a challenging behavior is heavily dependent on how you handle the triggering event. If you address it carefully in the beginning, the likelihood of the child exhibiting the challenging behavior decreases.

If you are late to respond or don't know how to address the triggering event and your child starts having a tantrum, be observant because you will be able to find out the reason for the trigger, and from next time onwards you can control the situation before it escalates. 

8) Use Visual and Auditory Support 

Take visual and auditory support to make each step of the task more simplistic and easier for the child to follow. 

It is a great idea to use objects, drawing, pictures, music, videos or apps on phones or tablets, showing each step of an activity. The steps are arranged in an order to demonstrate how the entire activity is done. 

You can teach the child to put a checkmark on the step when he finishes it. 

This makes the task more interesting and keeps the child motivated by removing the element of boredom.

9) Give your child a break.

After a long stressful day, you want to relax. Sometimes your child is as tired as you are. You can say 'No Work Today'. The expression on his face will be priceless! This break not only makes the child happy; he will cheerfully resume the task on the next day. 

10) Provide Reinforcement for Free

Give the reinforcement for free sometimes. The joy on your child's face will be priceless, and this lets the child know that you understand their wants. By doing so, the child learns to trust you.

11) Easy, Easy, Then Difficult 

Divide the task as per the difficulty. Making the child perform the easy task first motivates him to at least try the difficult one. If he accomplishes that also, then please shower the appreciation that he truly deserves.

12) Teach Functional Communication Skills. 

The child learns how to effectively communicate feelings and basic needs. After learning functional communication skills, he will no longer engage in challenging behaviors.


Whether you are a new parent overwhelmed with your child's tantrums and aggression, or an experienced parent unable to understand a particularly challenging behavior, start implementing these 12 strategies mentioned in this blog. 

It will give you valuable insights and guidance to help you figure out the ups and downs of parenting with confidence and compassion. 

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