Behavioral Self-Management with Students

Behavioral self-management is a tool that requires the student to play a role in their actions and choices. This post will explain how this approach works. There are three steps to behavioral self-management…

  1. Self-monitoring
  2. Self-evaluation
  3. Self-reinforcement

Also, several external factors need to be considered, as well.


Self-monitoring involves having the student determine what the problem is in terms of their behavior. For example, a teacher may ask the student if being disruptive in class is problematic for the other students. Most students will agree to this, and thus this form of questioning allows the student to identify where the problem is in terms of their actions.

Once the student knows where the problem is, they can move to the second stage, which involves self-evaluation.


Self-evaluation deals with the question of what the student should be doing. As the teacher, you would explain acceptable behavior in contrast to what the student does typically. For example, if the student is disruptive examples of non-disruptive behavior, communicate what the expected behavior is.

With this knowledge of what is acceptable, the student can now focus on implementing the desired behavior. The final step is called self-reinforcement.


Self-reinforcement is the final step in behavioral self-management. This step involves making sure that the new behavior is continuously practiced. For example, if a student stops being disruptive, self-reinforcement makes sure that the student does not return to being disruptive again. To be successful, the student must have control over what kind of reinforcement they get beyond verbal ones. For many teachers, this may not be attractive, but this idea of autonomy is a critical aspect of behavioral self-management.

However, several factors must be considered when attempting behavioral self-management. Some of these factors include circumstantial cues, the individual, behaviors, and consequences.

Additional Factors

Circumstantial cues are things in the environment that help or hinder changes in the behavior of the student. For example, a student might be disruptive because of who they sit next to in class. Merely moving the student can alleviate the problem. Another cue that can cause disruptive behavior is boredom. In such a situation, the student may need additional stimulation by assisting the teacher.

Different people have different ways to make sure they do not continue poor behavior. Some students may use self-talk, which involves using encouraging words that the student speaks to themselves to maintain positive behavior. An example of self-talk could be a student saying to themselves, “I can do this.”

Rehearsal is another strategy used by individual students. Rehearsal is the student visualizing in their mind the proper behavior. For example, the student may imagine what a quiet classroom looks like and try to produce this behavior in the real world. Lastly, symbolic coding involves envisioning the consequences of inappropriate behavior. For example, being removed from class and or having their parents called would be things most students would prefer to avoid.

All of the strategies mentioned above can be taught to the student by the teacher. The ones that are pick will vary based on the personality of the student and the behavior that the teacher wants to see changed.


One of the primary benefits of behavioral self-management is that it places the responsibility of change on the student. This form of empowerment can be beneficial for many students who think they have little control over their own lives. However, everyone will not respond positively to this style of management. For example, this approach may be challenging to use with small children who lack self-control in general. Also, some students are so used to coercion that they will not respond to the benefit of participation in choosing how to act. This is why having several different tools available and the flexibility to use them is the best strategy for a teacher.

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