Model Appropriate Behavior

Should I bite back?

When I was a young mom, I was standing in the foyer of the church building talking with an experienced mom, who had raised several great kids. In the middle of our conversation her youngest son (who was the age of my oldest son) come to talk to her. I don’t remember why he was not happy but it appeared he was feeling like he was not getting the attention he needed. He kicked his mom in the shin. I remember thinking what a spoiled little boy he was and that I would never let my child kick me and get away with it. She looked down at him with a sad expression and said nicely, “Please don’t kick me, that hurts and it’s not kind”. Her response perplexed me and the experience stayed in my mind for years.

What should you do when your child kicks, or slaps or bites you? Instinct makes me want to lash out and hit them back.

Or, I use to wonder if I should do the same thing back, like bite, so he would know how it felt.

Now that I’m older I realize that adults should not imitate kids poor behavior, instead they should Model correct behavior. Rather than do the same thing back to them to show how it felt, kindly tell them what they did was not kind or acceptable. Express how it made you feel and what the consequences of doing it again will be.

The situation could go something like this:

Young child is stroking your cheek and suddenly slaps you.

 Make a sad face and say,

Ouch, that hurt me. It makes me sad when you hit. Let’s just love each other like this” stroke their face, or give a hug or kiss.

If they change their actions and are kind for a little while but then repeat the same negative behavior (often they will to test you to see what you’ll do the next time) tell them again that you’re sad when they hurt you and that if they choose to hurt you, they will need to be away from you (put them down if you are holding them, put some space between you and them etc).  Tell them,

“I like it better when you act sweet so we can be close to each other”.

             I don’t believe any learning happens when you scream at your noisy children, “Be quiet”. Or when you say, “Stop hitting each other” as you spank your child. That type of behavior is sending mixed messages. It’s like the old adage, “What you’re doing is yelling so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying”.

I know it’s hard to keep your cool when your child hits you, or kicks you or spits on you. But when it happens, say over and over in your mind, “I love this little person, I love this little person… Be kind… “ and try to remember to Model appropriate behavior.

You Have 2 Choices

You Have Two Choices copy

It’s likely that something like this, or a very similar situation, has happened to you.

You have a visitor at you house and you are sitting on your couch talking with them. Your toddler or pre-schooler is sitting right next to you playing a video game (or something else distracting) on a hand held device with the volume turned loud enough that it is interrupting your conversation.

Things you can say that are totally ineffective:

“Turn down the volume”.

“Please turn it down”.

“I told you to turn down the sound”.

“Turn that down or I’ll take it away”.

“Do you want to go sit down over there (pointing to the other side of the room) while 

            you play that game”? 

“Put that away and you can play it later”.

“Here, give that to me and let’s put it away”.

 OR You don’t say anything but just try to reach over and turn it down at which point your child hollers and pulls the device away from your reach.

It becomes awkward because there needs to be a change made but you don’t want to make a scene in front of your guest.

Here’s a more effective way to handle it –

1- State the problem

2- Give two choices

3- Implement the choice

Example of these steps:

(Excuse yourself from the conversation with the other adult and give your child 100% attention during this interaction)

1- Say, “The game you’re playing is too loud and I can’t hear what my friend is saying”.

2- Say, “Since I can’t hear my visitor because the sound is turned up too high, you have two choices. You can stay sitting here and turn it down or, you can keep it that loud and go sit on the other side of the room (or another suitable place)”.THEN don’t go back to your conversation with the other adult until the child has made and completed the choice. I think it’s so important that you keep your attention on the child until they have made a choice and carried it out.  That way your child knows you are not all talk and no action, and they know they can’t stall until you forget.

At this point your child has some options –

  1.  They can take one of the choices you offer and it’s over.
  2.  They can make a choice that was not one of the options you gave.
  3. They can ignore you (which is highly likely the first few times you try this).

1- If they choose option one, HALLELUJAH!  Thank them for cooperating.

2- If they want to make a choice that is not one you listed you say, “That was not one of            your choices”. Then repeat the options

3-If your child ignores you, say:

Which do you choose? Stay here and turn it down or go sit over there?”

Wait several seconds 

“You can make the choice or I’ll choose for you”


“It’s time to decide now. If you can’t decide what to choose I’ll choose for you”

The first time you do this your child might think you’re just talk

and won’t follow through. So there might be some resistance on

their part. But if you do this consistently, they will know they

might as well make a choice because it’s not going away.

“Okay, You didn’t choose so I’m going to choose you turn it down then you can stay sitting close to me.” Then physically reach over and turn down the volume.

 At this point you might have to physically (gently) take the device and turn it down. There may be some screaming and a tantrum. To which you calmly reply, “You had a chance to make a choice and you choose not to”.


In Review:

State the problem

Offer two choices

Repeat the choices if they don’t act

Stay calm

Keep your attention on the situation until it’s over

Be consistent – use the same word pattern every time.

Teaching a child to make choices is SO important. It will serve them well as a child and an adult.

Try to create other situations where your child has an opportunity to make a choices, such as:

“Would you like to eat cereal or pancakes for breakfast”? (follow the same word pattern as       described above).

“Do you want to buckle you seat belt or would you like me to do it for you”?

“Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt today”?



Back to the {discipline} basics

As you probably know, I am here in Thailand teaching. IMG_0771 IMG_0811 I started teaching 3 weeks ago and let me tell you something; the first week was really rough!  The last couple weeks have been really great though.  Do you want to know what made all the difference?  DISCIPLINE. In the past, classroom management and discipline were strengths of mine.  Then I came here and promptly forgot to implement the things I should have.  Maybe I thought they’d already be trained to behave well (they’re not—kids always test the limits with someone new), maybe I thought Thai kids were different (they’re not), or maybe I was mainly focused on the new curriculum and style of teaching.  Whatever it was, I didn’t go in with a strong enough framework and the kids were not behaving well.  Lucky for me, I’m a problem solver and come up with a plan when things aren’t working.  The other fortunate part is that I already knew what I should have been doing; I just had to do it!  So now I’m here to share some discipline basics with you teachers and parents. Discipline-basics

  1. Be clear with what you expect.  It’s easy to fall in to the mindset that since kids have been in school for years already they know what to do.  That may be true, but they need to be reminded (a lot).  Have classroom rules and review them ridiculously often.  I feel really strongly that ‘be respectful’ should be a rule for every kid.  It covers a LOT in one rule (less rules are easier to remember and review) and is a good trait to have throughout their whole life.
  1. Have consequences.  It’s great to tell them what you expect, but if there aren’t consequences afterwards then none of that matters.  If they do what you’ve asked be sure to recognize that.  Anything from a quick “Sam, you look fabulous, thanks for following directions so quickly!” to a behavior chart  on the wall can be effective.  Make sure you have consequences for both positive and negative behavior.  I have seen a lot of teachers who have consequences for negative behavior but not for the good.  Kids respond really well to positive attention—so well that it can prevent a lot of the negative behaviors.

This is what I had the hardest time with here in Thailand.  I set the expectations but didn’t have consequences in place. I just expected them to do what I asked.  When they didn’t I said their name and reminded them what they should have been doing. Then if they did it again I did the same thing.  They quickly realized that I didn’t have a plan for what to do if they didn’t listen to me.  Now that we have a reward system in place they know that if they do great they get to earn a couple stars and if they aren’t they lose the stars one at a time.  They are excited about the things they can save up to buy and they are invested in it!

  1. Follow through.  If you say you are going to do something you need to do it!  If you tell them they need to stop touching the person next to them or they need to move seats you NEED TO HAVE THEM MOVE SEATS when they do it again.  If you don’t they will know that you aren’t telling the truth when you tell them something.  They will try to get away with more and more and you will feel frustrated quickly.  The really great thing about this is that if you DO have good follow through the kids will                            a) Realize you are serious and follow directions more quickly                                        b) Trust you because they know that you will be true to your word                                c) Start to monitor themselves
  1. Be consistent.  I fell like this is so simple and so crucial at the same time!  This goes hand in hand with the point above.  Make sure that the rules are the same for every student and you are being fair.  Be consistent by responding the same for each student and the same from day to day.

Guess what.  Kids are the same all over the world!  My classes still have students who have a hard time focusing, a couple who aren’t real invested in their education, a class clown, someone who thinks they’re smarter than everyone else, a few that are so excited to be there and are always ready, one that can’t sit in a chair for a chunk of time, a couple who can’t seem to control their mouths.  And just like everywhere else in the world they are all capable, crave boundaries and consistency, and want to have fun and be loved. Now that I have implemented the discipline basics things are going fantastically!  I feel like this has been an experience to help me rediscover things I already knew.

Teachers, is there anything I forgot that you have found to be helpful? Also, if you want to read about my adventures over in Thailand feel free to head over and take a look!