Challenging Behavior Landing Pad

Effective approaches to addressing challenging behavior require consideration of several key areas. The first is knowledge of personal values – yours and those of each child’s family. The second is knowledge of what are reasonable expectations for each young child. The third is access to good information about what works. This landing pad highlights research, policies, and position statements (Why Do It?), print materials (Read All About It), videos and DVD (See for Yourself), and web resources (Find It Online) to support effective approaches to addressing challenging behavior in infants, toddlers and young children. Featured resources are high‐quality, readily available, and no‐cost or low‐cost. A special section (Virginia Guidance) features state‐specific resources.

Why Do It?

Identification of and Intervention with Challenging Behavior. Concept Paper. (2009).

This concept paper lays out the evidence base and resources behind the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) position statement of the same name (see below).

Identification of and Intervention with Challenging Behavior. Position Statement. (2009).

DEC provides current guidance for the early childhood field.

Position Statement on the Management of Challenging Behaviors. (1990).

Despite its age, this guidance from the National Down Syndrome Association offers sensible guidance for administrators, practitioners, and families.

Research Synthesis on Effective Intervention Procedures

This 2003 Executive Summary highlights practices that have been shown empirically to reduce challenging behaviors (including social isolation) and to decrease the likelihood of their reoccurrence.

What Works Briefs

Each What Works Brief describes practical evidence-based strategies, provides references to more information about the practice, and includes a one-page handout, highlighting the major points of the brief. Briefs in English and Spanish are available to download or purchase. Sample topics include:

See For Yourself

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL)

Videos produced by CSEFEL are available to view online. Go to
to see Promoting Social Emotional Competence, Practical Strategies for Teaching Social Emotional Skills, and other titles in their entirety.

Visual Tour of the Pyramid Model

This animated sequence of PowerPoint slides provides an overview of the Pyramid Model, a conceptual framework for supporting social emotional competence, and reducing challenging behavior, in infants and young children.

Find It Online

Addressing Persistent Challenging Behaviors.

Assessment-based, individualized interventions are needed for young children with persistent challenging behavior. This fact sheet provides guidance on the implementation of Positive Behavior Support and the development of effective behavior support strategies.

Creating Teaching Tools for Young Children with Challenging Behavior.

This free product was developed by the Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI) to gives teachers practical research-based strategies to support plans for young children who are having challenging behavior. The Teaching Tools provide easily accessible ideas and materials such as handouts, worksheets, techniques, strategies, and visuals to support children in the classroom and other learning environments. They also offer ideas of effective intervention approaches for children who do not need a functional assessment to determine the function of the child’s problem behavior or a team-based process to address persistent challenging behavior. 

Early Head Start Tip Sheets.

The Office of Head Start has produced a number of compact resources addressing challenging behavior. These include Tip Sheet No. 36 (What Are “Challenging Behaviors” When Working With Infants and Toddlers?), Tip Sheet No. 37 (How Do You Know If Infants or Toddlers With Challenging Behavior Need an Individualized Support Plan?), and others.

Early Intervention for Children with Serious Challenging Behaviors: Strategies and Recent Research.

Glen Dunlap and Lisa Fox’s PowerPoint slides lay out both broad concepts and specific applications.

Effective Practices for Preventing Challenging Behavior.

This brief from the Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behavior describes several early intervention strategies, including arranging of the classroom environment, scheduling, and implementing rules, rituals, and routines.

Growing Ideas Tip Sheets and Resources for Guiding Early Childhood Practices.

Maine’s Center for Community Inclusion and Disabilities Studies has generated some excellent resources for addressing challenging behavior. Tip Sheets (1-page topic-specific overviews), Virtual Toolkits (professional development activities), and Selected Resources (books, articles, tools, videos, and websites) are available to download on a variety of topics including Behavior Communicates, Ouch, That Hurts (biting), Shocking Language (swearing), and Whack! Slam! Bang! (aggression).

Helping Children Learn that there’s a Relationship between Their Behavior and its Consequences.

The RTC on Early Childhood Development describes what’s effective in “early contingency” learning and how disability or developmental delays affect a child’s speed in learning the connection between behavior and the consequences it may have. Implications for practice are described in terms of the environmental arrangements most likely to optimize the greatest amount of positive social responding. And hey! There’s information in Spanish: ¡Sí! ¡Hice que pasará! (YES! I made it happen!) and ¡No hay apuro! Las investigaciones comprueban que vale el ser paciente (No rush! Research proves it pays to be patient).

Preventing Challenging Behavior in Young Children: Effective Practices

The single best way to address challenging behaviors in young children today is to take steps to make sure that they never occur. While there is no universal panacea for preventing challenging behaviors, this fact sheet offers several broad-based early intervention strategies that researchers suggest to prevent challenging behaviors.

Reducing Challenging Behavior by Clarifying Expectations, Rules, and Routines Workshop.

These Make and Take workshop materials include a presentation with embedded video, engaging activities, and colorful handouts. Participants will learn the importance of using visuals to teach, the difference between program-wide expectations and classroom rules, the importance of teaching expectations to children in a manner that is developmentally appropriate, and strategies and techniques to teach clear expectations.

Resources about Behaviors that Still Challenge Children and Adults.

This bibliography offers a variety of resources on behavior, self-regulation, and other related issues.

Supporting Infants and Toddlers with Challenging Behaviors

This compact resource from Lise Fox provides a quick overview of key issues, including the importance of considering the cultural components of behavior.

The Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI).

TACSEI takes the research that shows which practices improve the social-emotional outcomes for young children with, or at risk for, delays or disabilities and creates FREE products and resources to help decision-makers, caregivers, and service providers apply these best practices in the work they do every day. Most of these free products are available on the TACSEI website to immediately view, download and use.

Infant Mental Health Approaches and IDEA Part C Position Paper.

This position paper from the IDEA Infant Toddler Coordinators’ Association (ITCA) reflects the belief that infant mental health approaches should be effectively integrated into the provision of all early intervention services as defined by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C.

Read About It

Moving Right Along. . . Planning Transitions to Prevent Challenging Behavior

The authors of this article discuss why challenging behavior tends to occur during transitions. They offer strategies for planning and implementing more effective transitions, ideas for using transitions to teach social skills and emotional competencies, and a planning process for working individually with children who continue to have difficulty during transitions. Included are sidebars with transition tips, a daily schedule revised to include fewer transitions, and an extensive list of individualized strategies.

Without Spanking or Spoiling: A Practical Approach to Toddler and Preschool Guidance.

Elizabeth Crary’s book offers practical guidance at a reasonable price ($14.95). An instructor’s guide is also available for using Crary’s ideas in professional development.

Social Emotional Development of Young Children.

This free online learning module provides an introduction to social emotional development, also known as infant mental health, for children birth to age five.Topics covered in this module include social emotional development; evidence-based research including a framework for infant child mental health; and reflection on the impact of past experiences, family, culture on healthy social emotional development.

Virginia Guidance

Infant & Toddler Specialist Network

The ITSN provides on-site consultation, mentoring, support, training, and technical assistance to early childhood caregivers, teachers, and directors to improve the quality of care and education that infants and toddlers receive while away from their primary caregivers. Addressing challenging behaviors in classrooms and other child care settings are just one of the supports they can provide.

T/TAC Online

TTAC Online provides training and other resources related to a variety of early childhood education topics, including helping children manage challenging behaviors in community settings.

This professional development activity is supported by the Integrated Training Collaborative (ITC), with funding support from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Virginia Commonwealth University - Partnership for People with Disabilities Copyright 2011. Updated 2013