Behaviour Plans Are Written For The Adults, Not The Kids

Behaviour plans are useless, unless the adults have developed — and continue to develop — secure relationships with the children

What is a behaviour plan?

Around here we have something called a Behaviour Intervention Plan (BIP). If a child is consistently or repeatedly demonstrating concerning behaviours at school, the family and select school staff will work together to develop a B.I.P.

The primary goal of any type of plan should be to meet the child’s needs, first and foremost. However due to bureaucracy, politics, and lack of training, these plans often end up outlining ways the child must behave differently in order to make everyone else’s jobs easier.

I don’t blame the school staff, they aren’t given the proper training and resources to compassionately, skillfully, and effectively support students with complex needs. Full stop, there’s no other way to state this.

In fact, let’s forget creating behaviour plans altogether as they’re generally useless anyway. What we should be doing is getting to know the children, developing positive relationships with them, supporting them, and working to understand and meet their needs.

A fictional example

Let’s say Sammy Student has some behaviours of concern. The most common behaviour I see addressed in behaviour plans is aggression or hitting others, so let’s start with that one.

I’ll demonstrate two different approaches, the behaviourism approach, and the child-centred approach.

The content will be over-simplified for the sake of brevity, but my goal is to demonstrate the differences between the two, rather than actually write an effective plan.

Behaviourism-based plan

Concerning behaviour

Sammy student has hit other children during recess time when they have disagreements.

Behaviour goal

Sammy student will ask an adult for help if they cannot resolve a dispute without using physical aggression.

Supports and strategies

  • An adult (EA) will be within eyesight and earshot of Sammy while they are playing with other children at recess time.
  • The adult will move closer if there seem to be any problems and will intervene if needed to help mediate the dispute.
  • The guidance counsellor will provide social skills support once per week during their one hour of Lego Therapy.

Assessment and evaluation

  • The EA will observe interactions between Sammy Student and peers, and provide support where needed.
  • The guidance counsellor will fill out a summary of what Sammy and their peers practiced during their social skills group.
  • The guidance counsellor will track progress being made on specific social skills Sammy is working on.

Student safety

If Sammy is unable to seek adult support in resolving peer conflicts and continues to engage in physically aggressive behaviours towards their peers, then an alternative recess arrangement will need to be made in order to keep all students safe.

Child-centred approach

Concerning behaviour

Sammy student has hit other children during recess time when they have disagreements.

Behaviour goal

There isn’t one. The point isn’t to control Sammy’s behaviours, it’s to figure out why Sammy is hitting other children and how the adults can support Sammy, as well as keep the other children safe.

Underlying issues

  • Sammy has difficulty regulating their emotions when they feel someone has treated them unfairly.
  • Sammy feels overwhelmed by the large number of children and the loud environment of the playground during recess time.
  • Recently Sammy was playing basketball with an older peer and they had a misunderstanding. As the older student turned around, Sammy had thrown the ball and accidentally hit that student on the back.
  • The staff member on duty saw this occur and assumed Sammy had done it on purpose, in anger. When Sammy tried to explain what happened, the adults would not listen or believe their version of events.
  • The other student was crying and was too emotional to explain what had happened.

Supports and strategies

  • The guidance counsellor and occupational therapist will support Sammy in learning how to identify their physical cues for when they begin to feel dysregulated.
  • Sammy will be given options for quiet places to play on the playground. It will be Sammy’s choice to identify how they are feeling and whether they would like to play in the main area, or whether they need a break in the quieter space.
  • If an adult observes Sammy becoming frustrated or upset, they will acknowledge and validate Sammy’s feelings, and offer co-regulation and support.
  • When everyone is calm, the adults will help Sammy and any peers involved work through their conflict, and help them come up with a resolution that is acceptable to everyone.


  • The guidance counsellor, and other adults with whom Sammy feels comfortable, will make efforts to build their relationships with Sammy.
  • Sammy will be given the option of going to the guidance counsellor or resource teacher’s room for support when needed.
  • The adults will role-model conflict-resolution skills, validate Sammy’s feelings, and offer support and co-regulation when needed.

Created by author

Stark differences

In the behaviourism-based approach, Sammy’s underlying experiences and feelings are not even considered. Potential stressors are not considered. The sole focus is controlling Sammy’s behaviour.

In the child-centred approach, the adults will truly listen and hear what Sammy has to say about their experiences. The goal is to dig down beneath the surface issues to find out what is underlying the behaviours.

Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.”

 — Alfie Kohn

Children very rarely act out maliciously. If a child hits another child, it’s often because they were overwhelmed by their environment, stress, or were unable to use more effective conflict resolution skills.

They don’t need punishments and rewards, they need support and skills.

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB

When you join medium, as a member you’ll have access to unlimited reads for only $5 per month. If you use my referral link, I’ll earn a small commission, and you’ll earn my undying gratitude.

Related Stories

Published by Neurodiversity MB

Jillian has Child and Youth Work diploma as well as a BA in Psychology. Jillian worked on the front lines of Social Services agencies from 2003 - 2012. Jillian has taken numerous continuing education courses and has attended various workshops focused on supporting neurodiverse children, in particular children with ADHD.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: