Challenging Behavior: How Positive Behavior Intervention Plans Can Help


Challenging behavior is not just frustrating; it can have serious negative effects for educators, students, and family members. Challenging behavior can be disruptive, interfere with teaching and learning, and lead to punishment and changes in class or school placements. It’s not just a problem for one student. The whole class can feel the effects and miss out on learning opportunities.

There are three functions of challenging behavior: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and sensory stimulation and regulation. Predictable chains of antecedents, behavior, and consequences help identify the function. A set of techniques called Positive Behavior Intervention Plans can make a real difference. Teaching students what to do instead of the challenging behavior and making sure there are supports in place for the new, appropriate behavior can lead to improvements.

Group of teenagers sitting in classroom with raised hands

What PBIPs Include

Positive behavior intervention plans should identify strategies to increase appropriate behavior and decrease challenging behavior. Most plans include the following information:

  • the challenging behavior and its function
  • the appropriate replacement behavior that will achieve the same function
  • antecedent variables and strategies that will trigger the replacement behavior
  • positive consequences that will follow appropriate behavior
  • how antecedent triggers for challenging behavior will be reduced or withdrawn
  • how positive consequences associated with challenging behavior will be reduced or withdrawn 
  • strategies for responding to challenging behavior
  • who is responsible for implementing the plan as well as when and where
  • a schedule and procedures for data collection, progress monitoring, and review

Here are some tips or recommended practices for implementing effective positive behavior intervention plans:

  • Don’t forget the positive part of PBIP. Positive interventions primarily focus on increasing and supporting appropriate behavior through proactive and supportive strategies that teach students appropriate behaviors to meet their needs.
  • Match the attributes or features of consequences. For example, if a student immediately escapes a disliked activity following challenging behavior, the student must immediately escape the activity following appropriate behavior, such as asking to take a break.
  • Implement intervention strategies correctly and consistently. If students continue to experience desirable outcomes following challenging behavior, they will continue to use that behavior.
  • Realize that behavior change takes time. We cannot predict how long it will take for challenging behavior to decrease or stop occurring and for appropriate behavior to increase.

About Exceptional Child

With the Exceptional Child Online Professional Development System, you can easily deliver evidence-based special education-related training to all staff who support students with exceptionalities. Our 70+ course library includes a Behavior category that offers 15 courses designed to help educators in understanding and managing challenging behavior in the classroom.

Each engaging, multimedia-rich course includes:

  • Interventions
  • Actionable ideas
  • Assessments
  • Helpful reference materials
  • Certificate of Completion

Sign up for a demo or call us at 800.434.0154 to learn more!

Tags: Behavior