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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Sawchuk

Functions of Behaviors - Part 3

Escape/Avoidance

Similar to adults, children often find themselves in situations that they no longer want to be in, resulting in some problem behaviors.


Escape - When the task or demand has already been presented

EX: Throwing a pencil in the middle of homework


Avoidance - Before the task or demand has been presented

EX: Running away from bedroom before bedtime

Consider this: Bedtime is approaching and a child is not ready to give up games, TV or electronics. Children are far more likely to engage in problem behaviors in an effort to postpone bedtime, a non-preferred routine. While not the most appropriate, children often find yelling, running away and other tantrum behaviors to be more effective than nicely asking for more time. Parents managing and negotiating with these behaviors inadvertently postpone the bedtime.


What can we do about this? See the task through.

  1. Verbalize Expectation - “It’s time for bed”

  2. Validation Bridged with Action - This is a perfect opportunity for validating and encouraging statements such as, “I know it’s frustrating to have to go to bed AND we can do it together.”

  3. Follow-Through - Make sure that the child is following through with the task by walking with them, offering support, or modeling the next step.

    1. *For children over the age of 12 - provide check-ins (ex: “time to brush your teeth, I’ll come and check on you in 5 minutes”).

  4. Praise, Praise, Praise! - It’s important to praise children for their efforts along the way. For each step, make sure to acknowledge that they are following through.

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