30 Preventive Strategies To Do Before A Behavior


What’s one thing I can do for student behavior that I can see almost an immediate response? Incorporating quick and easy preventive strategies into your classroom or household!  Preventive strategies are put into place before the behavior occurs to prevent it from occurring at all.  Let’s face it, the best time to intervene on problem behavior is when the behavior is not occurring.   The following 30 Preventive Strategies can easily be incorporated into any classroom with your students or even in your daily home routine with your own children.  


Welcome Back!  This is the third post of six in this Behavioral Teacher series.  Check back to continue gaining knowledge and resources to add to your behavioral management skills.  When we are finished with this series you will be able to create an entire behavioral plan! In this blog, we begin to identify some strategies to implement based on what you identified as the priority behavior from What’s the Function?

In our last blog, Data Collection… More than Just ABCs, you were asked to collect information on your child’s or student’s behaviors so you can better understand WHY the behaviors are happening.  Did you see any patterns in the behavior?  Did it occur at a certain time of the day or with the same individuals?  Were you able to successfully identify the function of the behavior?  Was the child attempting to gain something or were they trying to avoid or escape an activity?   Let’s now begin to start building a plan… 


Why do we need to take the next step from a data collection sheet to a summary statement?  The summary statement pulls all of the information that you gathered into one statement and one place.  This will help you to understand and use the information you collected effectively. The statement will guide the development of your plan to decrease the behavior because it summarizes why the behavior is happening so you can choose an intervention to match the reason. 

Example:  “When my son sees me talk to my husband after work, he screams and runs around the room until I give him attention.”  To gain attention is the function so you want to make sure your plan includes providing attention in a more appropriate way.  


“During math class, when John is asked to complete a math worksheet he will throw the paper off his desk and run out the door.”  This summary statement it is informing us that John is attempting to avoid/escape the task of completing math worksheets, so our plan needs to address Math class and how to successfully allow John to practice some facts.



Preventive, Instructive, and Responsive strategies should all be included within a behavioral plan. We will use our knowledge of function and data collection that we have now and begin to create a plan together.  We will go into each category in more detail within upcoming blogs, but this blog will focus on preventive strategies. 

Preventive strategies are put into place before the behavior occurs to prevent it from occurring at all.  You are setting up the environment in advance of the behavior to reduce the chance that it will happen.  These strategies often involve making changes to the physical environment and focusing on some of the identified triggers you discovered while collecting data.  They are effective in reducing problems quickly and therefore you can possibly see an immediate reduction in some cases. 


TO GAIN ATTENTION – Preventive Strategies

  • Give Periodic Attention:
    • Set a timer for every 2 minutes come over and attend to them, look into their eyes, and tell them how good they are doing.
  • Pair with Another Adult or Child
    • You can pair the child with another adult or child during that time or even a sibling.  Perhaps a nearby peer could help the student if they have a question OR a sibling can provide some assistance if you have an important phone call to make at home.  
  • Provide Specific Jobs to the Child. 
    • You can set it up so the child can help you, for example, if you are putting things away then give the child items to put away. If you are passing papers out and it is appropriate for a student helper perhaps you can allow the identified student to help you to allow them to get up and move as well as feel they are receiving appropriate attention from you. 
  • Offer Highly Preferred Activities.
    • There may be activities that you know they like a lot,  give the child the option for one of those activities during this time.  Since the activity is highly preferred it, in turn, can replace the need for attention in some situations. 
  • Increase Proximity to the Student. 
    • In the classroom, this may involve moving the seat arrangement or move periodically about the classroom passing by them.  At home, you can set yourself near your child while you are working or completing other important tasks.

TO GAIN AN ACTIVITY – Preventive Strategies

  • Transitional Warnings
    • Provide warning whenever possible.  We will move on from centers in 5 minutes.  We have 3 minutes left until we begin math.  In 1 minute we will end center time and begin math. 
  • When/Then Statements
    • The use of when/then statements is giving information about what will happen first and next.   E.g., “When you finish your Reading test, then you get to play a game on the computer.”   or “When you pick up your toys, then you get to go to the playground.”
  • Use a Picture List, Routine, or Schedule 
  • Schedule a Transitional Activity.
    • Schedule a moderately preferred activity between highly preferred and highly non-preferred activity.  
  • Strategically Place Highly Preferred Activities
    • You can look at your schedule or routine and place highly preferred activities after a non-preferred activity.  This strategy will pair very well with the use of “When/Then Statements.” 

TO GAIN AN ITEM – Preventive Strategies

  • Transitional Warnings
    • Provide warning whenever possible.  In 5 minutes we need to put away the book to go to the store. We have 3 minutes left with the book until we leave.  In 1 minute we will put the book away and go to the store.
  • When/Then Statements.  
    • The use of when/then statements is giving information about what will happen first and next.   E.g., “When you finish your Reading test, then you get the computer.”   or “When you use your nice words to ask, then you will receive the iPad”.  
  • Use Picture List, Routine, or Schedule 
  • Having enough Materials or Alternative Items
    • If you discovered that your two children are arguing when it is free play and fighting over items based on your data collection, then this strategy is for you. You can strategically place 2 of the same item out to discourage that.  Perhaps it is play-dough, you can prevent behavior occurring by placing two cans of play-dough out.   Do children need to learn to share?  Absolutely! However, please remember these are all strategies to put into place PRIOR to the behavior.  We will work on teaching how to share and other strategies during behaviors in upcoming blog posts!  
  • Increase Accessibility of Items 
    • Make sure that supplies, items, and favorable toys are placed within a child’s reach.  By rearranging the environment (classroom or home) so that preferred items are accessible can eliminate problem behaviors. 

TO ESCAPE OR AVOID – Preventive Strategies

In an escape situation, the trigger is often a demand (ex., asked to pick up toys, sit in their seat, complete a worksheet).  Think about whether this demand can be eliminated or should it be modified?  This is based on your personal values, what you are able to tolerate, and what you expect.  Decide whether the activity has to happen or not.  If the activity must occur then you can modify the demand.  If the activity is not necessary, then you may choose to eliminate the demand for now.

  • Provide Opportunities for Choice
    • Choice is my favorite and “go-to” strategy that I always try first.  Choose things that will allow the student to have some say.  Do you want to read the book first or complete this phonics worksheet?  Would you rather practice your spelling words or write in your journal first?  
  • Increase Predictability
    • Consistency of task requirements is very important, especially when you are consistently stating your expectations.  By completing items or tasks during the same time, same amount, same requirements allows the student to have an understanding of what it entails.   
  • Behavioral Momentum
    • Make sure to have a lot of requests that they will respond to, that are easy for them and they are successful with, and then add in a request that is more difficult or that they may not comply with.  
    • Ask them five things you know they will do or say/answer.  “What’s your name, age, favorite color, touch your nose, wiggle your toes…then the task they don’t like.  Get out of bed and get dressed.”  
  • Include Movement Activities within the Problematic Area
    • Try to incorporate some movement breaks or movement within the activity.  Write the Room activities are a great resource to include not only in writing activities but across the curriculum.
  • Modify Task 
    • You can decide to modify the task by length or mode. Perhaps it would be beneficial to shorten the activity or provide frequent breaks throughout?  You can also change up the medium or materials used.  Try to replace some paper/pencil tasks with hands-on activities or use of a computer. 

SENSORY – Preventive Strategies

  • Provide Alternative Sensory Reinforcement 
    • Offer music to a student seeking auditory reinforcement, or visual stimuli to a student seeking visual reinforcement
  • Enrich Environment 
    • Fill the environment with interesting and stimulating activities (does NOT mean overstimulate the classroom walls with posters, multiple crazy colors, etc.)
  • Access to Materials
    • You can have an area where you keep some sensory items (e.g., squishy balls, Rubix cubes, moveable tangible items).  You can teach the expectations of how and when it would be appropriate to use them and how students may request or have access to them.


  • Building Positive Rapport and Appropriate Relationships
  • Clear Expectations
  • Reinforce Expected Behavior
  • Set Rules & Procedures
  • Increase Student Preference/Interest in Activity 
    • Incorporate student hobbies/interests into activities 
  • Physical Arrangement of Your Classroom 
    • Increasing the accessibility, appropriateness, and availability of items and materials can facilitate children’s independence, thus, decreasing the likelihood of challenging behaviors.
    • Arranging the classroom to ensure visual monitoring of children, arranging activity centers to support children’s appropriate behaviors (e.g., limiting the number of children in a center), and facilitating smooth transitions among activities.
  • Provide Positive Specific Praise 
    • When children are praised for behavior they are more likely to repeat that behavior.  It is important for you to be specific and positive when praising the child.  “I really love the way you put your toys away.”  “Great job saying thank you when Tommy picked up your book.”

This is an extensive list and could possibly seem overwhelming.  Where do you start? If we understand and know the triggers and behaviors…then we can change the environment and what we do so that it is more likely that the behavior will go away.  Based on the high priority behavior you choose from my first blog post: What’s the Function of Behavior?, you collected data based on the information from Data Collection…More than Just ABCs.  From this information, we should be able to see a pattern and what the function was.  Identify two to three strategies below the function above to try in your daily routines. 


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 what you could do during the behavior, what to do after a behavior occurs as well as how to put it all together in one comprehensive plan.

Written by: Christopher Olson

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