Cyber week deals end in:
Shop Now

Using Extinction to Decrease Problem Behavior

Challenging behaviors, otherwise known as “problem behavior,” “unwanted behavior,” or “socially unacceptable behavior” is any behavior that is disruptive to the student and/or others. These behaviors may impede learning and/or social interactions. If not addressed or if addressed incorrectly these behaviors could become significantly worse.

Extinction is a procedure used to decrease undesired behaviors. Although it may not be readily evident, these behaviors are typically maintained by reinforcement. To extinguish a problem behavior, you must stop the delivery of the reinforcer that follows the behavior.


A child hits her mom. By yelling “Stop hitting me!” the mom is unintentionally reinforcing her child’s behavior. Because the child is receiving the reinforcement, he/she will engage in that problem behavior more often. To decrease this problem behavior, the mom must stop the delivery of the reinforcer – yelling “Stop hitting me!”


In ordrer for extinction to take place, two things must occur:

  1. The delivery of the reinforcer must stop.
  2. The undesired behavior must decrease.

Extinction is a gradual process. Often, when extinction is first applied, the undesired behavior will increase before decreasing. This is called an extinction burst. This occurs because a child will attempt to exhaust familiar inappropriate behaviors to get what they want before adapting to the appropriate behavior.


To learn more about how to address problem behavior, go here


Copyright © by Special Learning Inc. All right reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced without written permission. For information, email

Articles Categories