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20 Instructive Strategies To Do During A Behavior | Education to the Core


One of my most stressful moments of teaching is when a student is involved in a behavioral episode.  I feel helpless, alone, frustrated, and often ready to throw in the towel.   I understand how frustrating it could feel when it seems you have done all you could just for the child to continue acting out.  Instructive strategies, or teaching strategies, are interventions to teach the child/student age-appropriate ways to get their needs met and provide coping skills for difficult situations.  My goal is to provide you with techniques and opportunities for you to implement during those stressful times and to hopefully make your jobs and lives easier.  

Welcome Back!  This is the fourth post of six in this Behavioral Teacher series.  Check back to continue gaining knowledge and resources to add to your behavioral management skills.  In this blog, we begin to identify some strategies to implement during a behavioral episode!

Where we last left off in our behavioral series was just introducing strategies and interventions to put into place prior to behavior occurring.  Hopefully, you were able to add some strategies discovered in 30 Preventive Strategies to do Prior to a Behavior to your behavioral plan.  Remember, those were all strategies to attempt to put into place prior to the behavior occurring.  We are about to move on to the next category in our behavior plan: Instructive Strategies.

As we discussed in What’s the Function of Behavior? students typically engage in challenging behavior because they learned that those types of behavior are more effective than other means.  By teaching alternative skills or instructive strategies can help students to achieve their goals or needs met and often cope with difficult situations as they arise.  There are three main types of instructive skills:  1) Teaching Strategies, 2) Coping and Tolerance, and 3) General Adaptive Skills.

Teaching Instructive Strategies 

How do you decide when it is appropriate to teach your child or student when to use his/her words?  You want to make sure that using words instead of using problem behaviors will still give your child the same outcome.  The reason or function of the behavior is important.  We need to make sure we teach them to use words in a way that matches the function.  

Once you have the function of the behavior in mind, the next question is: Can You Honor The Request?  You need to decide prior if it is appropriate to let the child get what they want by teaching them to use words.  Let’s face it… if you aren’t going to honor the request after teaching them if they ask, what’s the point if they still aren’t going to get it?  If you can honor the request then this next section is a great starting point.  However, if you cannot honor the request you may need to look in the next few sections for some tips.  

Gain an Item/Activity

Problem behaviors that are associated with gaining items or activities happen when children want something they cannot access without help or permission from an adult.  You can teach your child or student more acceptable ways to get things.  You can teach them to ask for an activity or item or to ask you for help.    

Request for Item
Request Assistance Gaining Item
Obtain Item/Activity Individually and Appropriately

Gain Attention

The way that children get attention and initiate or start social interactions with others is really important for creating positive, long lasting relationships.  However, some children may not have the skills to get attention appropriately from others or may not use these skills consistently.  

Request in an Age-Appropriate Manner

Our First Goal is to Extinguish Problem Behavior! Then We Can Teach Tolerance and Waiting!  

The child has learned that they can get out of doing something if they engage in problem behavior.  If your child uses these escape behaviors, and you can honor their request, you can teach them more acceptable ways to avoid unpleasant situations.  Again, this is if you can honor their request.  

Escape by Rejecting
Request a Break
Request Assistance or Ask for Help
Terminating an Activity


The logic for teaching skills for sensory behavior is the same as that for other functions.  For this category, you will ask yourself the following:  1) Is the behavior self-stimulatory or automatically reinforcing?  2) Identify which type or source of stimulation (auditory, visual, tactile, etc.). 

Sensory Extermination 
Request Alternative

Coping and Tolerance Instructive Strategies

Some situations must be tolerated by a student or your own child because they are important to their lives.  This is the difference between what your child should do and what they need to do.  We need to teach our students and children ways to cope and handle these unpleasant activities to increase the time they spend in a situation without behaviors.    

Delaying Reinforcement
Self-Management Skills 
Anger Control
Relaxation Techniques
Social Problem Solving  

General Adaptive Instructive Strategies 

Rather than adults modifying the antecedents / setting events – the student is taught skills to empower him/her to solve the problem.   

You want to ask yourself: 

Involving the student’s interests and preferences are important to make meaningful lifestyle improvements.  Remember, this is shaping behavior and unfortunately, that takes time.  I wish I could provide you with a magic wand of some kind to speed up the process.  At times, it could be frustrating, but know I am here every step of the way and I understand!  We need to celebrate the small steps!

Have you attempted some of these strategies in your classroom or home before?  Have you seen any improvement of behavior based on introducing these activities/interventions?  We would love to hear about them or feel free to share them in the comments below.  We will continue this conversation of behavior management and discuss in detail how you could respond after a behavior occurs as well as how to put it all together in one comprehensive plan.   

Written by: Christopher Olson

At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.

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