Why You NEED a Replacement Behavior

Categories: Interventions

The absolute, must-not-forget, essential step to eliminating any problem behavior is to teach and reinforce the appropriate way to access the consequence the problem behavior once delivered. And even if you are nodding your head along with mean, thinking “amen honey child” you might still be guilty of skipping this step or not completing this step fully. I am too. Don’t feel bad. No shame my friends. We get caught up in the my-intervention-is-so-badass mentality that we let the whole replacement behavior concept fall to the wayside. But I caution you with every ABA bone in my body to slow your roll and ensure that you are solidifying the replacement behaviors in a whole hearted manner.

When the problem behavior no longer results in a healthy dose of that sweet, sweet reinforcement – you need a replacement behavior to come to the rescue. When the replacement behavior results in reinforcement, your child will no longer have a need for the problem behavior. Teaching & reinforcing a replacement behavior will make your intervention more successful more quickly. 

The problem behavior used to be what resulted in something awesome. The problem behavior was reinforced by attention, avoid a work task, escaping a demand, or gaining access to an item. Once you work on removing that consequence (ie. the problem behavior won’t get your child those things anymore), you aren’t done.

You haven’t removed the want for that reinforcer. You child still wants attention or a break from work, etc. So now you need to give them an appropriate way to get that very same result – using the replacement behavior!

Every time that replacement behavior occurs – go wild with the reinforcement. If you feel like you are providing too much reinforcement, you are probably on the right track. Too much is better. You can fade it out later. The goal right now is getting the buy in. You want to show your student that this awesome replacement behavior you have taught them is immensely and amazingly better than the problem behavior that used to work for them.

A replacement behavior can be any type of positive and appropriate behavior that you teach your student that will give access to that same reinforcement.

The replacement behavior must be easier and more effective than the problem behavior!

Think about things like visuals, cue cards, and simple scripts to help make the replacement behavior something your child can readily do! And then load on that reinforcement like crazy. You want buy in. You can work on fading later.


  1. Great reminder. Thank you.

  2. Hello there,

    I saw your youtube video on all the work you have done to create a behavior plan. It was amazing. I would love to purchase it, if you are allowing us to access it. Thank you

  3. The replacement behavior much be easier and more effective than the negative behavior. visuals and cue cards can be used. Remember to have a Teaching Plan.

  4. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


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