The 3 main sections are that a child is trying to:
1. Gain something
2. Avoid something
3. Meet a sensory need
It is important to figure out what the function is when you are looking back on the ABCs of a child’s behavior. It is not always immediately apparent.
One of the hardest functions to handle is when a child is trying to gain attention, because many times they do not care if it is positive or negative attention. A child may actually act out because they know that the teacher is going to stop other things and focus only on them to try to correct the behavior. Therefore, the child is getting the attention they want. Our first instinct is to reprimand the behavior and get it to stop, but sometimes we have to remove that attention from the child and ignore them, which can be very hard.
Another difficult one is when a child is acting out to avoid a task and a teacher send them to a time-out or to the office. The student is therefore getting out of the task on many occasions. If this is what they wanted and what they got, they are sure to do the behavior again.
Many of the functions will not come as a surprise to you, but the important part is to take into account what the function is for a behavior (during the A part) and then how you are handling it (in the C part) to make sure that you aren’t providing the exact thing the child is desiring to receive from the behavior.
Just remember — Don’t do the same things all the time and respect different results! I wish you luck in finding the ABCs and determining the functions of behaviors. Take control of difficult behaviors in your classroom and keep those students in the room, as much as possible, by determining the needs and meeting those.