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When raising a child, every parent goes through difficult times. A child's conduct is very unpredictable, and parents struggle to comprehend the source of any violent behavior, what prompts it, how frequently it occurs, especially when the child is away from home, and what action should be taken if it occurs (Reebye). Naturally, the youngster may not be a bully; he may be cheerful, intelligent, and gentle; nevertheless, this may change when interacting with other children or adults. This support project's conduct includes hitting and shoving, as demonstrated by Matthew, a three-year-old boy. This behavior is not always out of anger caused by the subject but he just lashes out at other children. He pushes them and knocks them over sometimes out of nowhere. Teachers have reported that this aggression mostly happens at school especially during breaks and in the afternoon. It also happens at home especially during the weekends when playing with other kids. It can happen two or three times a day and then he reverts back to being friendly and happy to be around with.
Antecedents are the events that come before an aggressive behavior. They basically act as the trigger. They are the cues that demonstrate that a child is about to lash out. Aggression can occur immediately after the antecedents or they can accumulate over time before triggering the behavior (Renken, Egeland and Marvinney). At school, Matthew gets frustrated easily. First, frustration occurs when he sees other kids with new things that he desires, for example; new toys, bags, and many others. This does not anger him, but he hits and pushes in order to get a sense of superiority when he feels left out. The aggression is not always meant to hurt the other child but to make him feel inferior. Frustration at home is caused by dysfunctional parenting. When the parent is constantly saying no to his demands, Matthew’s frustration builds up for some time depending on how many times he is shunned until it explodes within him and starts pushing and hitting in order to feel relieved. The second antecedent to Matthew’s aggressive behavior is being teased by other children. Aspiring bullies always tease him and his protective instinct kicks in and the bullies end up getting floored.
All children love toys. Sometimes they are a child’s first best friend. There exists a strong connection between a child and his favorite toy. When his favorite toy is taken away from him, may it be at school or at home playing with other kids, this acts as a trigger to the challenging behavior. In addition, when he is left alone for long period of time by his parents, he feels excluded and denied attention. Demanding reaction and attention from them, he gets himself into trouble by picking on other children. All these are the main causes of his behavioral problems.
Setting events happen before or during an antecedent increasing the probability of the child being affected by the antecedent hence increasing the likelihood of aggression (Renken, Egeland and Marvinney). One of the major setting events regarding Matthew’s behavior is the absence of his parents. This happens mostly when he is left with the nanny. It acts as an inspiration and makes him believe that he can do anything he wants without being stopped. Any antecedent he experiences is heightened by this setting and ends up being violent. The next setting event is his physical or emotional state like when he is hungry. Any delays in having breakfast or lunch can set him off. Similarly, when he is sick and taking medication, he feels weak. Any slight provocation makes him want to feel strong again hence he pushes and hits those responsible.
Consequences in this perspective refer to what happens after Matthew’s aggression, that is, the actions of the recipients of the challenging behavior, the actions of his parents, teachers as well as his friends (Tremblay). After hitting and pushing, the parents do not always punish him but sit him down and try to calm him and tell him that it is wrong to act the way he did. Teachers always ignore these incidents at school because they believe that it is normal for children to tease. When they see him pushing other kids, they think that he is being playful rather than being aggressive. His close friends do not stop him, they rather cheer him up or join the action. Since he is a little young to fully understand what is right and wrong, his parents sometimes ignore this behavior. The consequences whether negative or positive, determine his view of this problem.
Reason for choosing this behavior
For a child, hitting and pushing may appear normal even to the adults present. What they do not realize is the long-term effect it can impose on the child. It can lead to severe aggressive behavior later in life. It can be a way of life for the child and any kind of violence displayed in the future will have been caused by his behavior as a child. In that manner, the recipients of the challenging behavior would end up getting hurt, which would otherwise have been prevented.
How long has it been happening?
Matthew has displayed this behavior since he was two years old. It all started with light kicking and pushing occasionally, but now it has developed into almost a daily routine.
It is normal to ignore this kind of behavior for a two-year-old but at three years, it is highly consequential. It cannot be taught, but it is a reaction that has its causes and can be prevented. Display of this type of aggression does not mean that the child is the enemy but it should be seen as a way of the child communicating his feelings.
In PTR-YC, a hypothesis is a general statement that summarizes the understanding of how a child’s challenging behavior is influenced by his surroundings. A good hypothesis has three sections which include a simple description of the behavior being studied, the antecedents and consequences that encourage the behavior (Dunlap, Wilson and Strain). The main hypothesis is as follows; when Matthew is feeling neglected, excluded or left out, he will demand attention by hitting or pushing his friends, other children or adults and ends up getting it from his teachers, parents, and friends.
What information in all of your data forms provided you with the information to form your hypothesis?
Formulation of the hypothesis was dependent on the information filled in the data forms for this paper. One of the most important information is the full description of the challenging behavior that is recorded in the PTR-YC Goal Sheet. This formed the first part of the hypothesis. Besides, the PTR-YC functional assessment checklist: Reinforce and PTR-YC assessment checklist: Teach provided information on the second and the third part of the hypothesis: the antecedents and consequences of the challenging behavior described in the goal sheet. The Teach Form provided the antecedents and the Reinforce Form provided the consequences.
Data collection forms used
The data collection forms used includes;
The PTR-YC Goal Sheet
The Behavioral Rating Scale
The PTR-YC Behavioral Assessment Checklist: Teach
The PTR-YC Behavioral Assessment Checklist: Prevent
The PTR Behavioral Assessment Checklist: Reinforce
Information provided by the forms
The PTR-YC Goal Sheet. This form identifies all challenging behaviors of a child and only one of them is targeted. The selected target behavior is then given an operational definition and description to show that it is measurable and observable. The desirable behaviors of the child are identified and how they can be increased.
The Behavioral Rating Scale. After identifying one challenging behavior and one desirable behavior in the PTR-YC Goal Setting form, the Behavioral Rating Scale (BRS) determines their magnitude and how often they happen including the number of times in each day.
The PTR-YC Behavioral Assessment Checklist: Teach. This form contains information that shows why the child exhibits the challenging behavior. The data includes; if the child exhibited that behavior to gain attention from his parents, friends or teachers (attention seeking), to obtain objects he desires (access to items), to delay a certain activity he does not wish to participate in (escape).
The PTR-YC Behavioral Assessment Checklist: Prevent. The prevent form addresses the setting events for the challenging behavior by identifying both emotional and physical environment. It also identifies the antecedents that result in the behavior displayed by the child and the times of the day when they are likely to occur.
The PTR Behavioral Assessment Checklist: Reinforce. The consequences that arise from the behavior are outlined in the reinforce form. It shows whether the child gets equal praise and the probability that he behaves appropriately after such praise. It also shows the child’s probability of repeating the challenging behavior after being acknowledged by his peers and parents.
Strategies to prevent target behavior
It is difficult to calmly, lovingly and safely stop children when they are portraying a certain behavior that can be harmful to them or other people. Most people feel horrified when a child hits others. It is obvious to understand that he is lashing out because he is scared or overwhelmed by emotions but it still can be treated as an emergency. The following are some strategies that can prevent hitting and pushing.
Encourage empathy. When Matthew hits or pushes other children for reasons like getting a toy, prevention of this behavior can be done by showing him an alternative way to get it. Get him to understand that it is not wise to hit others and if he wants the toy he should ask nicely or wait for his friend to finish playing with it. It is important not to wait until this happens in order to teach them empathy, but it can be taught before any signs of aggression in order to prevent it from happening.
Child-focused, parent-focused and multi-component programs. These programs are based on different research questions to prevent aggression in children such as hitting and pushing. Child-focused programs target groups of children where they are taught social, emotional and problem-solving skills or ways to alter their behavior. According to research, this intervention has generated effective results for preschool and elementary-school-aged-children. Parent-focused programs foster positive parent-child relationships. This program is responsible for teaching parents how to support and be part of their child’s learning process and achievement. Children of parents who participate in this program have displayed less negative behaviors. The multi-component program involves both parents and children. There is a training component for the parent and for the children, a skill-building component. All these programs can be used to prevent Matthew from hitting and pushing but requires full commitment (Barry and Lochman).
Identify and reduce the triggers of outbursts. A very crucial way of finding solutions is being able to understand the antecedents of the behavior. It is not all about sudden reactions but some of the triggers take time before the incident occurs. Take time and observe why, how and when Matthew gets upset and impose a preventive strategy before he starts kicking other children. Positively handling the triggers prevents such occurrences. For example, an antecedent like transitioning from one activity to another can be handled by making the process of leaving his favorite activity fun rather than nerve-racking. Before leaving the activity, be happy and make him curious about something that will happen in the next activity in order to get him in the mood. If the caregiver or teachers know all the situations that make him likely to hit or push, rearrange the environment to reduce the opportunities to hit others (Austin).
Strategies to teach new (replacement) behaviors
To teach a replacement behavior is not like teaching a skill. The first thing is to determine whether it fits the child’s repertoire of skills. Replacement behaviors should not always be taught after the challenging behavior occurs. The teaching plan concentrates on the identification of the conditions to teach Matthew how to respond properly to express his needs or feeling. The strategies include;
Developing and expanding communication. After identifying an alternative behavior, build an effective communication to teach him by asking for a quiet time by using his words. Proper communication makes sure that he does not get upset during the process and make him fully understand what is being said.
Teaching how to initiate and terminate interactions. Any instructions to impose the new behavior should be included in the child’s routine where the replacement behavior can be applied. He hits others to get attention, therefore, teach the new behavior by setting up opportunities to initiate interactions to gain attention (Powell, Dianne and Dunlap).
Determining a method of systematic instruction. Determine the appropriate method to be used to teach the skill. There are many research-based methods that make teaching of the new behavior efficient (Carr and Robert).
Strategies to reinforce new behaviors
After teaching the new behavior, offer reinforcement to ensure that it sticks. It is important to understand that it will take time to fully learn the new behavior, so any angry reaction should not be displayed. The following are some strategies for new behavior reinforcement.
Giving the child special responsibilities. This conveys the message that you care about him and he is a worthwhile child though the behavior cannot be appreciated. It makes him put efforts to learn and practice the new skill.
Modeling and role-playing. Create stories and scenes about the new behavior and involve him in some role-playing that will help him learn it (College of Education and Human Development).
Cooperative learning. Give him the opportunity to learn from his peers and closest friends. It gives him the feeling that he is not alone.
Reward positive steps. Praise him when he makes significant progress in learning and adopting the new behavior. This offers motivation to continue (Mood).
Who will help in implementing the plan?
To fully implement the plan, every person who interacts with the child socially should be involved. This includes his parents who should be the first people to be involved, his peers and closest friends as well as his teachers at school.
Reasons for the P-T-R intervention strategies
Prevent strategies. The main reason for preventive strategies is reducing the occurrence of challenging behavior in children. If children understand what is expected of them and given an alternative behavior, these strategies make it possible for them to choose this behavior thus lowering the probability of displaying any aggression (Alter and Conroy).
Teach strategies. Teach strategies make the child understand there are different ways to express his feelings without hurting others. They also make the adoption of new behaviors easier by providing guidance throughout the process and making learning fun as well as practising it (Alter and Conroy).
Reinforce strategies. One of the reasons for reinforce strategies is to make sure that there is a follow-up to teaching the new strategies. They determine the progress of the new behavior and ensure that the child fully commits to it. Successful implementation of the new behavior is also fully dependent on the reinforce strategies (Dunlap, Wilson and Strain)
Parent inclusion in the behavior plan
Any successful completion of every strategy depends on the input provided by the parents. Since the child completely trusts and feels safer around his parents, any effort to observe the child and impose the P-T-R strategies should have the parents present. They will be fully involved in the behavioral plan.
What could go wrong?
Dealing with aggression in a child is a very delicate situation. One of the problems that can be encountered is difficulties communicating with the child. Since he is only three years old, he may not understand some of the things being said to him lowering the chance of a successful implementation of the plan. Furthermore, some parents may be overprotective and can term any effort to teach the child new things as being stressful regardless of the approach taken. This makes it difficult to implement the plan. Moreover, the child may be socially and emotionally retarded and any interaction with him may not be successful.
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College of Education and Human Development. Dealing with Hostile and Aggressive Behavior in Students. 8 January 2016. 22 November 2017.
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