top of page

ABCs of Parenting: A framework for reviewing and improving behaviour

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

As a parent, we all have hopes that our children will behave in certain ways, showcasing exemplary qualities of kindness, intelligence, generosity, helpfullness etc. Sometimes your child may meet these expectations and sometimes they may not. It is important as a parent to let them know what is appropriate and what is not.

Behaviours can be simplistically tracked through the ABC model. Understanding this framework can be useful to parents as all behaviour, negative and positive, will follow this pattern. If you start to analyse your child's behaviours using ABC, it will provide a guide for improving parenting effectiveness, teaching new positive behaviours and optimizing the greatest change in your child.

As with most things, it is best to address problems before they arise (if possible), however this framework will teach you how to intervene and what options you have when negative behaviours occurs.

A = Antecendent

What lead to this? the buildup of events, the contributing factors, and sometimes the triggers that lead to your child’s behavior.


If your child throws a tantrum, you can evaluate what is happening before the tantrum happens. You can ask the following questions:

What is my child doing before he throws the tantrum?

Where is my child before the tantrum?

What other things happened before my child began to have the tantrum behavior?

Is your child Hungry, Tired or Frustrated?

Answering these questions, will give parents ample opportunity to teach their child what to do BEFORE the tantrum occurs. The skills of preventing teaching is most effective in this situation.

Tip = Addressing behaviour during Antecedent is recommended as both the parent and child can remain calm, and the relationship is most effective. However this is not always possible. If your child escalates, you can use the others skills to address and teach to their behaviour.

B = Behaviour

What did the child do? the response your child has in reaction to the antecedent.

When your child is behaving inappropriately, it is important to correct the negative behaviour. Identify the action that you want to change (e.g. Tantrums, Throwing toys, Not sharing, Fighting with Sibling etc.)


If your child is not sharing their toys, focus on the specific actions required - handing toys to someone else, looking around for other toys, being polite and saying please and thank you.

C = Consequence

What did you do? what happens after the behavior that makes it more or less likely the behavior will occur again. 

Make sure you choose an appropriate consequence, many parents go straight to punishment but there are multiple other factors that influence whether the behaviour is repeated.


"Time out" - Many parents go to time out but that isn't effective unless the child experiences a positive 'Time In' together afterwards. The child needs to feel as if they are missing out so the time out has some leverage.

Remember - regardless of your circumstances, changes is always possible. Don't feel discouraged, believe that you can get to where you want to be. Plenty of people have been in your shoes and managed to make changes so they could thrive and achieve success. Ask yourself 'Where do I want to be?' and then start implementing steps you need to take you from your current state (Point A) to your desired state (Point B). Use the ABC model to understand behaviour and make adjustments accordingly.

Example of a Behaviour Chart

*Note - In the example below, the parent yells at the child and picks up the toys. This is not an appropriate consequence as it does not teach the child the desired behaviour!

Disclaimer: The following information is not a suitable replacement for therapy or professional help. Mental health is very complex and there are various individual differences due to circumstances, genetics and life experience. All information published has been generalised and done in good faith. However, we will not be liable for any actions taken as a result of this website/post. If you are facing mental health concerns, it is important you reach out to a professional. You may also contact us at for further support.

bottom of page