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A Range of Consequences If each rule has an automatic consequence tied to it, you can get boxed into a corner. Having only one consequence for each rule is a mistake. Mendler and Curwin (1999) cite the case of a teacher whose consequence for undone home- work was staying after school to finish it. One day one of her best students said, “I’m sorry, Miss Martin, but my father was very sick last night. I had to babysit while he was taken to the hospital, and in the confusion, I didn’t have time to

Punishment breeds resentment, whereas logical consequences teach students.

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get my homework done.” The teacher is now in the dilemma of either being unfeeling and rigid (“I’m sorry, but you have to stay after school anyway”) or letting the child off and teaching the rest of the class that good excuses can pardon undone work. This could have been avoided if the teacher could pick from an appropriate range of consequences for each rule. Mendler and Curwin (1999) devote two chapters to developing and implementing consequences and recommend four generic consequences that might be applied to most rules: reminder, warning, practice following the rule, and a written plan. Hence, for undone homework, the range of consequences might be: reminder; warning; hand in work before the close of school that day; stay after school to finish it; and conference with the teacher, student, and parent to develop a plan.

With this range of alternatives, Miss Martin could gently remind the student that homework is due on time and then ask how her father is doing. In this way, she is implementing one of the prescribed consequences yet is not being overly rigid. With another student, who had been late six times that month, she might make him stay after school and finish it. Fair need not always be equal.

Delivering Consequences Every time an expectation is not met, we must consistently react (meaning “re- act every time” though not necessarily the same way every time). The reaction may be anything from a reminder to a consequence, but something has to hap- pen. Otherwise, the students—especially resistant students—come to disregard the expectation or become confused over where it applies. The transgression usually cannot be ignored. Sometimes we may choose to ignore certain behav- iors when they are minor and calling attention to them would just reinforce them, or we may recognize them briefly. The general mission here is to com- municate to students that your expectations are really your expectations. You mean them. They get this message when they find we reliably call them on certain behaviors and usually there is a consequence (Canter & Canter, 2001; Jones, 2013; Mendler & Curwin, 1999; Rogers, 1987). Mere admonishing and reprimanding without action that goes beyond words usually sends the mes- sage that expectations are weak.

We must be tenacious about restating expectations and consistently reacting. Individuals and sometimes whole classes will test teachers to the limits on this. The thing is not to give up, even though misbehavior continues in the face of specific expectations consistently upheld. Some very difficult students will push to see if we really care (meaning care about them). If the reactions to the misbehavior are reasonable, appropriate, and fair, tenacity will carry the day.

Lee Canter (Canter & Canter, 2001) tells the story of an aggressive third grader who consistently abused other children verbally and physically. On several oc-

Every time an expectation is not met, we must consistently react.

 

 

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casions, he extorted money from his classmates. At a meeting with the child’s family, the principal, and the teacher, a contract was signed that Carl would be excluded from school if he did any of the following things: threaten children, cuss them, extort money, or physically assault them. The family agreed to follow through with the exclusion at home.

The next day, on the way into the classroom, Carl got into an argument with another student and roughly shoved him. Ms. S immediately went up to Carl and simply told him, “You pushed Sol. You’ve chosen to go home for the rest of the day!” Ms. S contacted the office, and the principal called Carl’s mother, who came to get him. Carl went home and spent the rest of the school day in his room doing the work he would have done had he stayed in school.

The following day during a spelling assignment, another student refused to let Carl copy his work. Carl became angry and threatened to beat the student up. Ms. S, hearing this, told Carl what he had done and that he would be going home again. His mother picked him up, and he spent the rest of the day at home in his room. Carl behaved appropriately for the next two days. On the third day, during free choice, Ms. S observed him cursing and screaming at a girl who would not give him the puzzle that she was playing with. Ms. S repeated the same procedure of informing him of what he had done and that by behaving inappropriately, he had chosen to go home. For the first time, Carl became up- set. He began to cry and say that he did not want to go home. Ms. S simply told him that “he made a choice” and would be going home.

As was typical, the third time was the charm. Ms. S’s ability to deal assertively with Carl’s behaviors let him know that his disruptions would not be tolerated. Carl thus chose to control his temper and behave in an appropriate manner with his fellow students.

It takes determination and tenacity to keep delivering consequences when the behavior persists. But without that tenacity, students will not believe teachers are serious about their expectations. Follow-through at the beginning of the year on plans, such as the one Canter describes, will be keenly observed by the rest of the class and lets them know you mean what you say. Inconsistency and lack of follow-through, early in the school year, are a common cause of school discipline problems. One teacher we worked with developed the protocol in Ex- hibit 10.2 to keep herself neutral and clear because she knew Billy could thwart her resolve if she were not absolutely clear and consistent.

Inconsistency and lack of follow through, early in the school year, are a common cause of school discipline problems.

 

 

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Exhibit 10.2 Sample Protocol for Dealing with a Challenging Child

Memorandum

TO: Staff FROM: Ms. X DATE: May 15, 2016 RE: Strategy to Help B

Here is the summary of our strategy for helping B improve his behavior:

Prevention: Before an activity begins, tell B. If there is a change, alert him beforehand.

Intervention: Rationale: To help B be aware of his behavior and its effect on others. To provide him strategies to cope.

Strategy Steps: 1. Nonjudgmental, nonhumiliating, private warning combined with statement of expectation and choice for B. For example: “B, you are________________. I expect you to sing the song. You have a choice: You can stop _______________ and start singing, or if I need to speak to you again, you’ll need to take some time out.”

2. If B persists, call Mrs. L on the intercom phone and ask her to connect you to Mrs. Q.

3. If Mrs. Q is not there, Mrs. L will contact another person and tell you where to take B. The code words are, “I need to send you a message.”

4, Say to B: “You’ve made a choice by continuing to ______________. You need to take some time out.

5. If B balks, say “B, you have made a choice. You can either go on your own, or if not, I will call Mr. S.”

6. If B still doesn’t go, say, “You’ve made a choice by not going on your own. I will call Mr. S.”

7. Call Mrs. L to reach Mr. S.; Mrs. L will cancel with Mrs. Q. PRAY

I’ve provided words to use should you find that helpful. The key idea is a choice and conveying to B that by acting in certain ways he is making the choice.

 

 

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Canter elaborates on the virtue of persistence and consistency:

Children may not care if you keep them after school once, suspend them every now and then, or send them to the corner infrequently. But there are few children who would not care if they knew that they would have to stay after school every day they chose to, even if it meant five days straight. There are few children who would not care if they knew they would be suspended every time they acted out, even if it meant three straight days of suspension. There are few children who would not care if they knew you would send them to a corner for their inappropriate behavior every time they chose to go, even if it meant five times a day.

What we are trying to say is this: if you really care, the children will really care. If you are prepared to use any means necessary and appropriate to influence the children to eliminate their inappropriate behavior they will sense your determination and quickly care about the consequences which they will have to face consistently if they choose to act inappropriately. (Canter & Canter, 2001, pp. 109–110)

Almost any behavior we really want to get, we can get if we have the deter- mination because we do have the power. Does this mean that if one keeps delivering consequences persistently, the behavior is sure to change? First, it is possible to deliver a consequence over and over again consistently and have no effect. That can happen if the consequence is not strong enough, or if it some- how turns out to be a reward for the child. It can also happen if the behavior comes from a physical cause, ignorance, or a value clash. Second, the way in which the consequence was delivered in Canter’s scenario had a lot to do with its success. The teacher did not blame, criticize, or humiliate the student; she simply, but promptly, went up to him, noted the behavior (“You pushed Sol”), and delivered the consequence (“You have chosen to go home for the rest of the day”). She pointed out that going home was the child’s choice, in this case, since he knew that pushing Sol would lead to that. Thus the teacher reacts with matter-of-fact emotion rather than anger. It is, in fact, easier to react that way when you know precisely what you are going to do. That knowledge (versus the helpless feeling when dealing with a child who seems outside your control) gives a teacher both confidence and calm, which allows for better judgments. So being persistent with consequences can also fail if the consequence is not delivered in the right way.

The specific technique described in Canter’s scenario is a strong one: systematic exclusion of a student to eliminate particularly disruptive and persistent behav- ior. But it can be very effective. Seymour Sarason (1996) describes another pow-

 

 

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