Abcs of behavior management

Updated April 17, 2017

The "ABC" technique of behaviour management involves looking at the antecedent, behaviour and consequences of an action. In doing so, you can determine what caused the behaviour and what the behaviour, in turn, caused, allowing you to better understand and manage the behaviour itself.


The antecedent portion of the ABC model of behaviour management refers to the event or activity that result in the behaviour being studied. This antecedent activity or event is thought to trigger the behaviour, whether positive or negative, and allows us to see how we can encourage good behaviour and discourage negative behaviour. An example of an antecedent event is a teacher calling on a student to read a passage from a book aloud.


The behaviour portion of the ABC model of behaviour management is the behaviour being observed and dissected. The behaviour is a direct result of the antecedent activity or event that directly preceded it and can only be understood in the context of the antecedent activity or event. Continuing the example presented in the earlier section, the student refusing to read the book aloud is the behaviour that is a result of the antecedent event.


The consequences portion of the ABC model represents the consequences that are a result of the observed behaviour, and is the key component to managing behaviours. Depending on the consequences of the behaviour, the behaviour itself will either be reinforced or altered. Taking the example presented even further, the teacher allowing the student to refuse to read from the book as a "consequence" reinforces the student's undesirable behaviour.

How to Use the ABC Model

In order to alter a child's negative behaviour, you must look at the antecedent to that behaviour and consequences that result. Alter the antecedent activity or event in an attempt to alter the resulting behaviour and provide consequences that reinforce positive behaviour. For the example given, the teacher can ask the students to volunteer to read and reward the students that volunteer with the "consequence" of a small amount of extra credit. Avoid antecedent events that result in undesirable behaviour and discourage undesirable behaviour by coupling it with undesirable consequences.

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About the Author

Alexander Poirier began writing professionally in 2005. He worked as the editor-in-chief of the literary magazine "Calliope," garnering the magazine two APEX Awards for excellence in publication. Poirer graduated from the University of the Pacific with a Bachelor of Arts in English.