Today we're focusing on behavior management and setting clear-cut expectations for your precious little lovies (who probably never do anything wrong, right?!?!)
When people who are not in education ask me about my job, they are surprised to hear that so much of my job is dealing with behavior. This is especially the case if you are like me and have a large ASD population. Not all behavior is "bad." A lot of what I do is rewarding "good" behavior. In addition, we also use interventions and behavior management systems to extinct other behaviors (finger biting, head banging, tantrums, etc. due to lack of communication skills). Though sometimes negative reinforcement is necessary (mostly by parents at home), I most often use positive reinforcement. Depending on the age level, we have different expectations. However, my colleagues will tell you that I don't let much slip by me in the "behavior department." I'm a firm believer that kids will rise to whatever expectations we set for them. I set very high expectations when it comes to behavior.
One of the areas I am asked about most from parents is behavior management. Though it is typical that kids act differently for other adults than they do for their own parents, I often have to remind parents that clear expectations and consistency are the most important things. When kids know that there will be a consequence for all actions (whether good or bad), they will adapt. I mentioned in my bio that I was raised on a Black Angus cattle farm. I grew up showing pigs and cows. When breaking a show heifer, it was imperative that no matter how hard they pulled in the opposite direction, you never, ever, let go of the rope. Once the heifer gets away that first time, she knows she can do it again, and boy will she try! I use this analogy to make this point: When setting consequences, kids wait for you to let go of the rope. And once you do, they will try their hardest to get you to do it again and again.
In my classroom, my personal teaching mission statement is posted on the wall. In addition, the kids have their own personal mission statements (see Monday's post for the Student Folders Download). In addition, we have our classroom rules posted as well. The first few weeks of school, we go over these daily. Throughout the school year, we go back and review as needed. This way, the kids know what I expect of them. They can't ever say "I didn't know!"
I feel like I should also add in here that I love my babies dearly. We have a great rapport. I joke around with them, love on them, and make it an important priority to point out good behavior when I see it. You can actually see the kids swell with pride when their name is called out for doing something good. I have such a good relationship with my kids, that I very rarely have to discipline. They respect me and they know I respect them. With this kind of relationship, they want to make good choices.
OK-probably the grades that require behavior management the most are Pre-K and Kindergarten. Its not their fault. They are wired to move, move, and move! Instead of stopping instruction over to redirect behavior, I have a visual to remind the little ones of what is expected in order to earn their sticker. You can download it below. Feel free to use it however it works best for you. We use the 3-strikes-you're-out system. Each kids has a chart. When we see someone not following the rules, we quietly place an "x" in whichever box the child is not doing. When they get 3 x'es, they lose their sticker. Since this is very visual, the little ones can actually see (and count) their warnings. And boy, they hate to lose their sticker!
I know this is getting long. Can you tell that I love behavior management?! I wanted to add one more thing for those of you who work with the ASD population, or any other disability for that matter. Obviously, our expectations and the way we communicate those expectations are set according to the students' ability to understand. However, it is my personal belief that kids with disabilities can learn expectations and follow rules just like kids without disabilities. While there are some behaviors that we attribute to certain disabilities (such as acting out when schedules change for kids with Autism), it is our job to put interventions in place and teach these kids in therapy that while we understand why they are upset, there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable, and instead, give them the resources they need to learn appropriate behaviors instead.
How do you use behavior management in your job? Parents-how do you use behavior management at home? I'd love to hear from you all on this topic!