The Best Way to Change Behavior

How many times have you said to a misbehaving student or child, “Why did you do that?” You may have even put the child in a time-out so they could think about their answer. While knowing the cause of a behavior may be interesting, in reality it has little to do with changing behavior to become more responsible.

All people—even children—know when they act inappropriately, but KNOWING the motivation does not stop behavior, nor does it lead to a change in future behavior. This realization is in direct opposition to many discipline approaches aimed at determining the cause of a behavior—with the assumption that knowing the cause is necessary to change the behavior. Therefore, relying on discipline techniques that force children to “think about why they did something” are ineffective.

As compelling as it may be to know the motivation (the “Why?”) that prompts behavior, it is the action that will be taken—not the reason(s) for the action—that determines whether or not there will be a change.

Developing a procedure to direct behavior is a significantly more effective discipline approach than attempting to find a cause for a behavior—in hopes that knowing the cause will prompt a change.

Still not convinced? Then consider this: Cigarette smokers may know the reason(s) they started to smoke; they also know the repercussions that may result from their actions. But how effective is knowing these factors in changing behavior? Just ask a smoker.

1 Comment
  1. Thank you.
    I think this is true for kids and adults.

    Focus on the procedure. Develop it ahead of time.
    Then, next opportunity, best thing is to calm yourself and when calm carry out the procedure.

    My thoughts.