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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

3 Antecedent Strategies to Increase Good Behavior in Kids

There are many strategies that you can do to help your own children or the children you work with increase the likelihood that they will engage in more “good” behavior and less “bad” behavior. Whether the child has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, another diagnosis, or does not have a diagnosis at all, the following antecedent strategies are likely to be beneficial in improving your child’s overall behavior.

Antecedent strategies are strategies that can be implemented before any problem behavior occurs. This is my favorite way of addressing problem behavior. It is basically being proactive instead of waiting for problems to arise and then having to be more reactive to the situation. Of course, there are strategies for what to do during or after a problem behavior occurs, but this article will focus on a few helpful antecedent strategies.

    • Providing choices to your kids prior to any maladaptive behavior occurring can decrease the likelihood that they will participate in problematic behavior and increase the likelihood that they will engage in the behaviors that you would like to see.
    • Providing choices allows kids to make decisions about the activities of their day to day life rather than having to abide by someone else’s commands all the time. Kids have to do a lot, such as go to school, do homework, clean up after themselves, and many other tasks, so providing kids some opportunity to have a say in their own activities will likely increase their ability to comply when you do provide a command without displaying as much problem behavior.
    • Examples of providing choices includes asking your child if they want to clean their room on their own or with your help, asking your child if he wants green beans or broccoli with dinner, and asking your child if he wants to do math or reading homework first. There are lots of ways to provide your child with choices.
    • Kids are more likely to learn appropriate and desired behavior if they regularly observe others modeling that behavior.
    • To model desired behavior, keep in mind the behaviors that you would like to see in your child, such as taking care of items when they are done being used, maintaining an organized bedroom, or saying kind words about others. Then, participate in these behaviors often.
    • Making choices in any given moment is based on the likelihood of reinforcement that is associated with the possible options at that time. This is part of what is known as the matching law (Reed & Kaplan, 2011), which basically states that, at any point in time, a person’s behavior is actually correlated with the amount of reinforcement that particular behavior has received in the past as compared to the other possible behaviors (“choices”) in that moment.
    • To reinforce good behavior, provide praise, attention, and other forms of reinforcement, such as preferred items like electronics or edibles, immediately after the occurence of desired behaviors which are the behaviors you want your chid to continue doing or behaviors you would like them to do more of.
    • Reinforcement doesn’t have to include material items all of the time, but when material items are used as reinforcement, provide praise and attention simultaneously, so that praise and attention will become even more reinforcing to the child. This occurs by pairing social interaction with the child’s preferred items.
    • You also don’t have to reinforce EVERY SINGLE instance of behavior. Intermittent reinforcement, particularly variable ratio schedules of reinforcement, actually creates stronger rates of responding. This means that it is beneficial to reinforce your child for the behaviors you want them to continue on variable rates, such as every 1st, 3rd, or 5th time that the behavior occurs.



Reed, D. D., & Kaplan, B. A. (2011). The Matching Law: A Tutorial for Practitioners. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 4(2), 15–24. Retrieved from:; Schedules of Reinforcement; Retrieved from:

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3 Antecedent Strategies to Increase Good Behavior in Kids

APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2015). 3 Antecedent Strategies to Increase Good Behavior in Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 17, 2019, from