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Strategies in Building Positive Behaviour

and Reducing Negative Behaviour

Building Positive Behaviour

  1. Explanation & Modelling
    Identify, teach and explain positive behaviours

  2. Overcorrection
    Return to the original situation and practice the positive behaviour repetitively

  3. Encouragement

  • Example 1:
    Play a game at the end of class as a reward for being attentive and efficient in class

  • Example 2:
    Reduce load in penmanship with neat and accurate handwriting

Reducing Negative Behaviour

  1. Verbal Reprimand

  2. Punishment

  • Example 1:
    Write Apology letter for being impolite to another peer

  • Example 2:
    Take away your sticker for leaving your seat


Reinforcements are not necessarily tangible gifts (e.g. stickers and food), they can be intangible rewards (e.g. game and being praised in public).

Punishments for students with ADHD best not involve taking away their breaks. Students withADHD can focus better after active movements.

Praising good behavior > Punishing bad behavior!

When and How do I give reinforcement or punishment?


  • Reinforce immediately after positive behaviour occurs

  • Pair reinforcement with specific feedback (explain what you are reinforcing)

  • During early stages of learning positive behaviour, reinforce every time positive behaviour occurs

  • Reinforce positive behaviour and never reinforce negative behaviour

  • Do not bribe or tease student with reinforcement


  • Do not over punish or decline easy ways of redemption as student might give up

  • Consequences of negative behaviour should be natural and relevant

  • E.g. Being late for exam

✓ No compensation for the time forgone

✗ Deduct exam time even further

  • E.g. Not submitting assignment

✓ Provide a valid explanation and solution; submit the assignment before another deadline

✗ Standing in the hallway/ at the back of the classroom during class/recess

Response Cost

  • Loss of a privilege/ removal of a reinforcer or an opportunity for a reinforcer

  • Tend to be ineffective over time

  • Use only as part of reinforcement system; quickly reinforce positive behaviour again

  • Give 2 warnings before punishing for the first time


1. Exclusion in separate room/ partition

  • Temporary separation from an environment where the positive behaviour took place

2. Non exclusion (remain in the same area but no access to reinforcement)

  • Do not interact with student during time-out

  • Location of time-out must be safe and will not attract much attraction

  • Specify the time limit (be reasonable) to student

  • Communicate time-out as a time to think calmly, not a punishment


Be patient and compassionate - understand that there are causes for certain emotions and behaviors of your students


Do not fall into power struggles (calm & firm)

Relationship between social workers and multiple parties

  • Assist in aligning expectations between the individual with ADHD, parents and teachers, maintain regular contact for progress review and explore child’s strengths/ interests through one-on-one sessions

  • Share positive observations from one-on-one sessions with parents

  • Share effective learning and behaviour modification strategies or resources, assist in redirecting parents or teachers to training courses and provide them with up to date information about therapies or important research to individuals with ADHD, their family members and teachers

  • Coaching parents on how to manage their expectations of their child, highlight certain dialogue or communication that could be triggering to children 

  • Social workers can act as a bridge between individuals with ADHD, family members and teachers, to encourage communication between the family and the school

Parents of individuals with ADHD

Difficulty adjusting to a lifestyle of long-term treatment:

Parents with less experience in handling children with ADHD may have difficulty adjusting to a lifestyle revolving around the treatment of their child’s condition, especially with the option of non-pharmacological therapy.

  • Parent training programs

    • Help parents and family members to understand and address with ADHD symptoms

    • Educate parents on how to respond to the child’s inappropriate behaviour and disciplinary techniques

  • Behavioral parent training

    • Educates parents on setting up an environment that fosters good behavior in children with ADHD, for example:

  • Setting house rules, routines, structured environment to train organization skills

  • Give clear instructions, set goals that are easy to follow

  • Allocate breaks in between tasks to allow children to recharge

Stress from multiple factors:

Parents may also feel stress in various aspects, such as financially or emotionally, if they feel burdened by the time and money to be spent on their child’s treatment there are different services that may help alleviate such concerns:

  • Service providers available in the community, see the James’ Settlement website:

  • Counselling for parents – recommended for parents with young children

    • Recommended for parents with young children to help their child understand the associations between negative behaviours and difficulties faced while growing up, and most importantly, how these difficulties can be addressedBuilds trusting relationships within the family

    • Aligns expectations to prevent misunderstandings

  • Multiple Family Group Therapy

    • Reduces parents’ psychological distress through setting up problems for families to solve collectively

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