15 Responsive Strategies To Do After A Behavior


One may think once a student’s behavior is over you’re in the clear.  Let’s face it you’re probably feeling exhausted, stressed and do you really want to spend even more time with the student that was just calling you every name in the book while kicking and punching you?   The answer is yes, you do.  You want to because you consistently head into “battle” every day. You want to make a difference.   The difference you make after that behavior begins now with the following 15 responsive strategies! 

Welcome Back!  This is the fifth post of six in this Behavioral Teacher series.  Check back to continue gaining knowledge and resources!  In the next and last blog post of this series, we will put all your strategies together to create a behavioral plan that works for you.  In this blog, we begin to identify some strategies to implement after a behavior occurs. 

You may have noticed in the last few blog posts of this series we began identifying strategies to complete during varying times of a behavior.  30 Preventive Strategies to do Before a Behavior and 20 Instructive Strategies to do During a Behavior really dove into strategies and interventions you can implement within your home and/or classroom.  We will focus our time and energy in this blog with strategies and interventions to put into place after a behavior occurs and how we respond to behavior.    

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.  How we respond to that behavior is so important.  If we respond correlating to the child’s function we are “feeding that function”.  Let’s look at an example of a student throwing items off of their desk.  Your initial response is to call out the student, possibly reprimanding them or even raising your voice.  However, if you identified the function of behavior you would learn that they were trying to gain adult attention the entire time.  The student now knows that all they need to do to gain your attention is throw items off of their desk.  Pairing a responsive strategy along with an instructive strategy could be the sweet pairing you’ve been looking for!  

Responsive Strategies

Responsive Strategies are the last of the specific strategies for challenging behavior.  They are effective ways to respond to behaviors that will reduce the chances of them occurring again.   Just like our identified preventive and instructive strategies, you want to make sure you are using a responsive strategy that is connected with WHY the problem behavior is occurring.  

It is important to note that the goal is to not have to get to this point in the strategies.

The first way to reduce behaviors is to be preventive.  This is the best because it keeps the behavior from occurring altogether.  This is most ideal. However, if a behavior is occurring because the child doesn’t know a different way to handle it, instructive strategies come into play.  The last resort is that the behavior could not be prevented and instructive strategies either didn’t work or were not appropriate, so then we must respond.  

Continuum of Responses 

Responses to problem behavior are placed among a continuum with respect to acceptability and degree of intrusiveness.  The goal is to increase your positive interactions and the positive behaviors of the child.  To increase positive behaviors, the interactions with the child need to be more positive as well.  The best way for the child to begin to learn the consequences of behaviors is to make sure the response is natural and a logical outcome of that behavior.  Think about if you speed, then you may get a speeding ticket.  Or if you are late for work, you may not get paid for those hours lost.  Those are natural consequences to your behavior.   

A caveat to this type of intervention is it often comes down to an individual’s acceptability and personal decisions.  A response considered to be appropriate to one individual may be considered highly offensive by another.  As is often the case, a team approach is always recommended when identifying appropriate response strategies.  The following sections describe procedures that contribute to an appropriate comprehensive behavior support plan.  These responses fall at the less intrusive end of the continuum. 


Peer Praise 

  • A common strategy is to praise another student or child who is following the expectation appropriately.  When Sally is disruptive, you can verbalize and praise another student saying “Santiago, you’re working very quietly, thank you.”  
  • This is designed to remind the disruptive student of the expectation and will be effective to those desiring praise.  Praising others is matched appropriately and well to those behaviors serving an attention function. 

Prompting / Redirection 

  • The statement provided will often redirect the student to engage in the appropriate expectation and behavior.  “Dawson, if you need help, please raise your hand to ask for help.”  Prompting and redirection will provide immediate attention.  Making the prompt very brief can reduce the risk of playing into those attention-seeking behaviors.  


  • The discussion will often require a bit more than just a simple clear prompt or redirection.  Perhaps it would be appropriate (dependent on function) that you can sit down with a student and have a chat.  This discussion would be regarding alternative behaviors that are appropriate and create a plan moving forward.  Review expectations and practice if need be.  An advantage to this strategy is that it could be completed out of the area where the behavior occurred and a length of time afterward providing time to calm down.

Problem Solving 

  • Building on the concept of a discussion, problem-solving is taking it one step further.  It is designed to allow the student to have more of a say in the discussion and plan moving forward.  Identify the problematic situation.  Once it is identified you can brainstorm alongside the student for more appropriate responses. Take the time to practice and role-play some of the appropriate behaviors.  


  • The purpose of restitution is for the individual to learn how to repair the damage caused during the behavior.  It should not be delivered in a way that is punitive though.   This is an opportunity to teach the student that misbehavior must be corrected.   Writing letters of apology would be an example of an effective restitution activity.  


Planned Ignoring

  • By far this is one of the most effective responsive strategies on this list in my eyes.  Mostly, because this was my grandmother’s immediate response to any behavior when I was a child.  It was the worst.  Remember when I said about personal decisions and personal acceptability?  For me, my grandmother took it to an extreme level.  I’m sure as educators we will not. 
  • When a child is displaying behavior that is disruptive or distracting, you can ignore the behavior and wait for the appropriate behavior.  Then react and provide attention and praise for the appropriate behavior.  When a behavior occurs you want to ignore the child’s words and what they say as well as ignoring what they are doing. 
  • Since often attention is a popular function of behavior, this is a very effective strategy.  Even if you think yelling or reprimanding is appropriate, negative attention is reinforcing because it is still providing attention.  Ignoring problem behavior while waiting for an appropriate response is powerful because it can stop the cycle. 
  • Think back to our Prioritizing Behavior activity from What’s the Function of Behavior?  Decide which behavior you can realistically ignore: e.g., screaming, yelling out, crying, knocking things off their desk, ripping up papers.  If a behavior is destructive or a 1st priority, do not ignore this behavior.  In this category, safety is a major concern.  The child may be attempting to hurt others or themselves.  Use other strategies like prevention or another type of response strategy.   

Differential Reinforcement

  • Building on the responsive strategy: planned ignoring, the teacher or adults utilizes the same steps.  However, this time immediately when the student follows the expectation you want to call on them or address/praise them accordingly.  For example, the student is calling out answers, but you are ignoring them. Once the student raises their hand you immediately call on them to say “Monique, I love how you raised your hand, thank you”.  
  • Another step is to strategically plan prior to transitions you know a problem behavior may occur.  For example, the teacher asks students to hold a “bubble” in their mouths (fill cheeks with air), which is physically incompatible with talking out loud in the hallways.  For older students, the teacher can also privately converse with a student. Showing the valued contributions of the student, you can state “but we also need your peers to have a chance to participate”.  Then provide an If/Then statement like: “If you can contribute five or fewer times, I’d love to meet with you during your student hall to hear the rest of your ideas”. Another if/then statement could be “if we can make it through this discussion without inappropriate language, then you can listen to music during your independent time at the end of class.”  Then follow through! 

Positive Punishment

Gentle Reprimand

  • Gentle reprimands are just simple, clear, concise ways to say what behavior is not acceptable.  Short statements will reduce the likelihood of providing additional attention when the function is attention-seeking.  You are making behavior known, but not giving excessive attention.  
  • At times, the use of gentle reprimands may escalate the behavior so it should be selected with care. 


  • Building on that gentle reprimand, feedback will include a general longer statement.  Brief statements will in turn reduce the likelihood of providing additional attention.  

Phone Call Home 

  • Another form of positive punishment might be a phone call home to report the behavior.  I always like to point out positive phone calls home can also be conducted more so than always the “behavior and negative” calls home.  

Negative Punishment

Time Out and Time Owed 

  • As we move down the continuum, we come to a strategy called a time-out.  Time-out is the planned removal of a child from a pleasurable situation.  You should not use time-out if a child is engaging in challenging behavior to escape a situation.  Other functions like attempting to gain something or attention may be more suitable.  
  • Time Out does NOT provide a learning opportunity for the child.  You are not telling them what to do or giving them a replacement skill.  This is just a punishment.  Although this might help to deter a child from engaging in similar behaviors in the future, it did not teach them what they SHOULD be doing instead.  
  • Time-out seems to be a popular way to address behavior, so it can become overused.  Some general guidelines should be in place prior to utilizing this response.  
    1. Setting up a separate time-out area.  
    2. This area should be clear of items and a safe space.  
    3. Teach procedures in advance.  
    4. Provide concise instructions, checking back in a short time to ensure they are safe and compliant.  Not interacting for those few minutes.  The use of a timer is always recommended.  

The following responsive strategies are falling towards the end of our continuum.  Of course on some occasions, we may have to travel this far down the continuum.  However, we hope that through the use of preventive, instructive and even some of the earlier mentioned responsive strategies that we won’t have to arrive here.

Removal of Privileges and Preferred Activities

  • This responsive strategy involves taking away something preferred for the child following problem behaviors.  Unfortunately, I often see recess as the focus of many educators.  I have my own personal opinion on how recess should never be taken away from a student.  I believe, especially for our more disruptive students, recess provides an outlet to get out built-up energy.
  • Taking a privilege away works best when the behavior is to gain an activity or item.  Be sure to attempt the following steps:
    1. Be reasonable.  Make sure it is clearly linked to what happened as well as being able to follow through.  
    2. Make the expectation clear.  What is expected and what is the consequence.  
    3. Not good to link to a distant consequence.  If you don’t pick up that pencil, your mother isn’t going to take you for ice cream this weekend.  (Yes, I’ve heard that one numerous times).  Aside…. A) They are going to get ice cream, you know that.  B) If the behavior is on Monday, the child is not going to make the connection by the weekend if it is followed through.  

Response Cost**

  • ** I am including this responsive strategy because I want you to have a full understanding of the responsive continuum.  I am sure you will make appropriate decisions that have a contextual fit to student behavior.  However, I proceed with full caution on this one, because it is at the end of the continuum for a reason in my eyes.  
  • Response cost is removing something based on the student’s behavior.  You would be removing something like an earned token, points in a point system, or other incentive program item.  
  • My soapbox moment:  I truly believe that nobody should ever take something away from a student that they earned.  We always want to focus on positives and increase the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.  I am sure there are moments or an extremely small percentage of students that this might be effective for.  

Again, I want to make sure you have all the information… not just the information that I want to share with you.  As was the case in the last few blog posts, it is important to keep that function in mind when you are determining appropriate strategies to include within your plan.  Once we identify a few appropriate strategies to include in our plan, we can then begin putting it all together. 

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 put it all together in one comprehensive plan.

Written by: Christopher Olson

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