Loving through Challenges: The Positive and Preventive Approach

Why do I have to keep reminding my child to do the same thing? Why is my student hiding under the table when it is time to work? Why does this child continue to chew off their eraser? And more importantly what do I do to stop the behavior? Why do children behave the way they do?  Here is some insight and tips from the FIRE conference (an inclusive look at Catholic education) along with other "on the job" learnings.

Behavior is a function of communication and requires teaching, not punishment.  The word "discipline" means "to teach". Children, often, do not have the skills yet or need more practice and we adults get to teach them. Functions of Behavior include:

  • To Escape

  • To Seek attention

  • To gain a Tangible good

  • An Automatic response

Especially for children with varying learning needs, a preventive versus a punishment approach works best. Proactive management such as teaching skills including consistency and arranging the environment are two significant ways to prevent behavior issues. Often behaviors emerge because school work is too difficult, inconsistent or not well understood.  The relationship between teacher or parent and child becomes even more important. A positive approach also works best.  Both teacher/parent and child have roles to play in the PBIS Positive Behavior system which includes the 3 Rs:  Be respectful, be responsible, and be ready.  

A few tips:

  • Keep a journal of behaviors and try to reflect on what caused it or came before it (antecedent) and then what the consequence was (positive or negative) after the behavior occurred. Identify one behavior to address for two weeks and write down the desired behavior and a consistent consequence to alter behavior. Depending on the age of the child, engage them to brainstorm solutions.

  • Talk with the parent and/or observe the child to identify what motivates them. First do this (less desired work) and then choose one of motivating work (ie, research about bees or write a story about a princess who visits the library).

  • "Say what you see" For a behavior identified to change (give it two weeks) notice any positive sign of it and do not highlight the negative parts. For example, for a child who has a difficult time remaining quiet when original expectation is for 2 minutes, "you stayed quiet for 30 seconds. I know you can do it for even longer next time." Say when you see they do something and follow it with encouragement.

  • Create a visual of routine or schedule for the day. Child can help to personalize it.

  • Create a social story of expectations around a specific time of day such as lunchtime or classroom expectations - make it as descriptive and personal as possible. I am (name) and I enjoy reading, learning new skills, and playing math games (personalize this part). Classroom time is for learning. I need to listen to learn. It is expected that I listen to whom is talking, tap my teacher or another student on the shoulder if I want to interrupt, and sit in my seat when doing work,

    • Keep it positive but have consequences in mind or on another piece of paper ready - such as "When I listen well, get attention in a good way, and sit and do my work, I will get to work on a math game, be a line leader, or have a chance to run an extra lap at movement time".  "When I don't do these things, I will need to stay in at recess and practice these skills with my teacher."

  • PRAY! Pray for yourself as teacher and pray for Mary's guidance on how to best help the more "challenging" behaviors

  • Among teachers it helps to provide

    • Common language

    • Friendship groups with praying

    • Self-regulation modeling and skills

    • Culture of mutual respect

What are some constructive and positive ways that you manage behaviors at home and in the classroom?