Based on the belief that behavior occurs for a reason, behavior modification seeks to look at what causes behaviors and what encourages or discourages them.
Antecedents are the events that happen just prior to a behavior. Antecedents can increase or decrease the chance that a behavior occurs. If your child packs her backpack when you remind her, the antecedent of your reminder is effective. If your son tantrums when you tell him to turn off his computer, the antecedent of telling him to turn it off is not effective.
Behaviors are the actions that follow immediately after the antecedents. Packing the backpack, turning off the computer, and throwing a tantrum are behaviors.
Consequences are what happen immediately after the behavior. In behavior-modification language, “consequence” does not mean a punishment or something negative. Consequences are simply the results of a behavior and can be good, bad, or neutral. Consequences might include allowing your daughter to watch television once she has packed her backpack or giving in to your son’s tantrum and letting him have more time on the computer. If the consequence is favorable the behavior will likely repeat. If it is unfavorable it is less likely to repeat.