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The Heart of Disciplining: Understanding and Delivering Feedback, Criticism, and Corrections that Teach Positive Behavior- For Parents

The Heart of Disciplining: Understanding and Delivering Feedback, Criticism, and Corrections that Teach Positive Behavior- For Parents

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Child guidance resource about how parents can use common ways of talking to improve child compliance
Child guidance resource about how parents can use common ways of talking to improve child compliance

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Published by: The Psycho-Educational Teacher on Feb 14, 2014
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The Heart of DiscipliningExcerpt

Understanding and Delivering Feedback, Criticism, and Corrections that Teach Positive Behavior

For Parents
Carmen Y. Reyes

License Notes This book is intended for your personal enrichment. Reproducing this book for commercial use is not allowed. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Copyright © 2014 by Carmen Y. Reyes

SolidRock Press

Introduction 9

So, What is Discipline?

10 12

Setting the Parameters for Language-Based Discipline
Section 1: Feedback 13

Kinds of Feedback


Guidelines for Giving Corrective Feedback 15
Observable Behavior Have a Goal Make Sure the Goal is Specific Make Sure the Goal is Realistic Match Behavior with Goal Match Praise with Goal Engage Your Child in the Creation of Goals Focus on Strengths Communicate Positive Expectations Make a Specific Recommendation for Change Structure Your Feedback Do Not Overload Your Child with Too Much Information Begin on a Positive Note Make Feedback Relevant to Your Child Own Your Feedback Clearly Distinguish Between Intention and Effect


Attribute a Positive Intention Separate Behavior from Character Focus on Effort and Progress Focus Your Child on Strategic Effort Provide Alternative Strategies Speak the Language of Strategies Give Feedback about Processes and Procedures Build Motivation Ask Questions Teach Self-Reference Feedback Keep 5: 1: 0 Ratios Section 2: Criticizing Your Child 31

Kinds of Criticism

32 33

Guidelines for Criticizing Children
State Only Observations Watch Out for Manners Have a Message Collect the Facts Show Concern Reference Actions, Not Abilities Keep Your Strong Feelings Under Control Minimize Errors and Mistakes Be Specific Tolerate Negative Behavior


Give Supportive Examples Explain the Purpose of Criticism Teach Relative Reasoning Become a Coach Train Your Child in Self-Criticism Link Your Criticism with Praise Review Daily

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say: Hidden Criticism
Section 3: Correcting and Redirecting Behavior 45


Guidelines for Correcting Behavior
Have Clear Behavior Expectations Give Unconditional Acceptance Avoid You-Messages Separate Child from Behavior Externalize the Behavior Help Your Child Fix the Mistake Show Concern Remain Calm Do Not Dwell on the Past Stay Close Avoid Global Statements Start with Something Positive Give Positive Directions



Give Your Child a Substitute Behavior Make the New Behavior Relevant Give Choices Presuppose that Your Child is Going to Comply Use Presuppositions of Change Avoid Questions Change “No” to “Yes, After…” Replace “Why” with “What” Give Examples Focus Your Child in Fixing the Problem Focus in Prevention Use the Boomerang Technique Teach Social Problem Solving Remind Your Child of Positive Behavior Train Your Child in Self-Assessment Do Not Sugarcoat the Problem Use Schaefer’s Six-Step Procedure

Giving Warnings


Some Pointers for Giving Warnings

Requests or Commands?


When Refusing Is Not an Option: Mastering the Alpha Command Guidelines for Giving Alpha Commands 66

Using Precorrection

68 69

Correcting a Child Already Angry and Defiant


87 89 91 92

About the Author

Of Interest to Teachers

Connect with the Author Online


The Heart of Disciplining: Understanding and Delivering Feedback, Criticism, and Corrections that Teach Positive Behavior is an innovative child guidance resource about how parents can use common ways of talking to both improve child compliance and to help children better themselves. In the psycho-educational field we firmly believe that the things we say to children, and how we say what we say, is a main factor in how children behave. When the child seems to resist to our directives and/or shows apathy, it may be beneficial for the parent or caregiver to reflect in whether the way the message was articulated and delivered contributed to the child’s resistance and noncompliance. In particular, caregivers profit from analyzing, and if necessary changing the kinds of behavior expectations communicated to children in our messages, more specifically, low and/or negative expectations about children’s capability to comply with directives and to “fix” behavior. The way we tell children about a problem behavior and their chances of improving that behavior; that is, the way we criticize the child and/or attempt to correct and redirect the behavior will be the decisive factor in winning the child’s compliance and in improving motivation to change the behavior. Through corrective feedback and skillful redirection of the behavior parents can send “just the right message;” saying “just the right words” to challenge the child’s self-doubts, because, to change behavior, both parent and child need to believe that change is possible and within reach of the child. Consistently and enthusiastically parents need to communicate goal-oriented (what we want the child to accomplish) and effort-oriented (report of progress) messages to keep children focused on improvement and growth. Communication that promotes positive behavior sees behavior change as a process with different children improving at a different pace and rate. Being supportive of the child during this child guidance process is by far more therapeutic and effective than just giving a reward or a punishment, or focusing in the outcome. The Heart of Disciplining: Understanding and Delivering Feedback, Criticism, and Corrections that Teach Positive Behavior breaks down these three day-to-day corrective statements, presenting ways in which parents can use

feedback, criticism, and corrections to support and to inspire children to be the best they can be.

So, What is Discipline? Before going into detail of each corrective act, some words about the most common disciplinary styles and models. Basically, discipline is delivered using one of three communication styles: 1. The Authoritarian Style. The adult disciplining using an authoritarian style expects from the child to do as he or she is told, immediately and without questioning. An authoritarian disciplinarian strongly believes that adults should always have the last word, needing to show that they are in control of the child. Anything less than that is perceived as an intolerable weakness. Authoritarian discipline is all about making children understand the rules; rules are always imposed on the child, looking only for compliance and quiet obedience from children. Authoritarians almost invariably use a loud and commanding voice with fast speech; their anger is not hidden, and they focus on negative behavior and punishment. 2. The Permissive Style. At the opposite extreme of the authoritarian style, we find the permissive style of discipline. These well-intentioned adults have a hard time setting up and consistently enforcing rules. Contrary to authoritarians with their rigid structure and many angry outbursts, permissive parents have no rules, no structure, and no behavior guidelines for children to follow. Within this discipline style adults speak using mostly a gentle and loving voice; expressing anger, annoyance, or frustration seems forbidden. Permissive caregivers show a strong dislike for punishment, and the important distinction between positive behavior = positive consequence and negative behavior = negative consequence is never taught to the child.


3. The Authoritative Style. In this third style of disciplining, adults establish rules or guidelines that children are expected to follow, but using a more democratic approach with children having a voice in the creation of rules. In disciplining, children’s social and emotional needs are taken into account, and children’s questions or concerns are listened and addressed. When children do not meet behavior expectations, the adult responds in a kindly and supportive way, putting more emphasis on progress to goals than on final outcome. As with a permissive style, there is very little punishment on this third style of discipline, however, permissiveness gives neither punishment nor support, while in the authoritative style we find little punishment but with a lot of support. Popular models or approaches that parents can use to support language-based discipline are: A. The Boundary-Based Model. This model relies on setting limits and in giving behavior choices to children. Rules and consequences are explicitly stated and behavior-consequence links, both positive and negative, are known to children. B. The Behavior Modification Model. This model relies on giving rewards and praising children to reinforce positive behavior, and on ignoring to extinguish negative behavior. C. The Social Problem Solving Model. To address social skills deficits (e.g. frequent fights, aggressiveness, and antagonistic interactions with siblings or age-peers) this model is a must. The social problem solving process is a systematic or step-by-step procedure that children follow to: a. Identify the problem b. Brainstorm possible solutions to the problem c. Select and implement a solution d. Evaluate the solution implemented If the first solution tried does not solve the problem, children select a second solution from the brainstormed list and they repeat the procedure.


D. The Emotion Coaching Model. The main premise in this discipline model is that, when children are able to recognize and to understand their own feelings, or the real feelings behind misbehavior, they are better able to make responsible behavior choices. Adults respond to misbehavior by encouraging children to identify the feeling (e.g. anger, frustration, embarrassment) that fueled the inappropriate behavior. Simply put, with this discipline model, we teach kids coping skills in how to self-manage emotions. Setting the Parameters for Language-Based Discipline In the most general sense, effective discipline teaches children how to act, putting the child in charge of his or her own behavior and giving plenty of opportunities to fix errors and mistakes. The key concept in the previous definition is teaching; to discipline means to teach, and that will only be possible if behavior choices and consequences are well-established and they make sense to the child. Using language that promotes positive behavior (i.e. positive expectations, high behavior standards, and goals) children learn to recognize which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are still in need of improvement. Interactional and language-based discipline is a consistent way of setting boundaries based on mutual trust and respect. When needed, corrections of behavior are delivered firmly but gently. Correcting misbehavior focuses on finding strategies that children can use to achieve their behavior or academic goals.




hen we succeed in giving effective feedback to children, we are delivering explicit information about how appropriate or inappropriate the behavior is. Information-explicit feedback structures appropriate behavior at the same time that specifies the inappropriate behavior. In addition to be information-specific, effective feedback is both issuefocused (specifics about performance) and based on observations; never focused on the person (the child’s identity or character) or based on opinions and judgments. Opinions and judgments that are positive belong in the category of praise (e.g. “You are so organized!”), not feedback. On the other hand, opinions and judgments that are negative seem closer to negative criticism than to feedback (e.g. “You are my little messy-sloppy!”).Either way, praise and negative criticism are general, vague, focused on the child’s identity or character, and they state nothing else than our own opinions and feelings. Information-specific feedback, on the other hand, is delivered in a way that children learn something about their behavior or performance, increasing the chances that the child will produce an improved response in a similar situation in the future. Most specifically, children need to know what they need to improve and what exactly they can do (the steps to follow and/or the strategies to use) to improve their current performance. Remember that without any relevant and specific information, you are only giving either praise or negative criticism. Kottler and Kottler (2000) advice delivering our feedback coupled with a supportive

comment. Supportive feedback is sensitive and provides emotional support to the child; for example saying, “One of the things that you do that I really like is…”

Kinds of Feedback The three kinds of feedback most commonly used with school-age children are: 1. Positive Feedback or Praising; that is, giving thanks to the child or showing appreciation for an appropriate behavior. For example saying, “I really like the way you waited to play with the toy.” 2. Negative Feedback or Criticism. Delivered mainly as a reprimand, negative feedback draws attention to negative behavior using a nasty or a sarcastic tone of voice. For example, “Stop wasting time!” 3. Corrective Feedback or telling the child exactly what to do (e.g. “Please get ready for bed. You have ten minutes to brush your teeth and wear your pajamas”). From the child’s perspective, corrective feedback answers two main questions: a. How close am I now? b. What do I need to do next? Wrapping up, when we give corrective feedback, we tell children exactly what to do. Corrective feedback is descriptive, guiding the child toward a more appropriate alternative or a new behavior. We should deliver corrective feedback in a neutral and positive tone of voice, conveying the expectation that the child is going to comply with our directives.


Guidelines for Giving Corrective Feedback

Observable Behavior  Comment about observable behavior; feedback should give information about the specific behavior or the specific skill that we expect the child to improve. Statements like, “I like what you did” or “That was nice” are too vague to be good feedback. The child will have a hard time trying to figure out and complying with directions that we do not state clearly.  Similarly, messages like, “I expect good behavior in grandma’s house” or “Check your spelling!” are not corrective feedback. With these kinds of remarks, we let the child know that something is not right, but without telling exactly what went wrong, neither how it can be fixed. Giving clarity about what happened should be the aim of our feedback. Have a Goal  Help your child create a goal toward which the behavior or skill is striving. The child’s goal must answer, “What do I want?” or “What do I need?” Goals give the reason for dealing with the problem and help in outlining the procedure or steps for solving the problem. Specifically, goals influence persistence; when children are in pursue of a goal, they try harder and work on setbacks. Goals narrow attention, focusing children’s effort in goalrelevant activities and keeping them away from unnecessary and unproductive activities. Goals guide and direct behavior, explicitly telling children what they need to do to reach the goal. Most importantly, when we work with children in the creation of behavior or academic goals, we are strengthening self-esteem, communicating to children that they are worthy of those goals and worthy of developing the traits and/or skills they need to reach their goals. As Morse and Ivey (1996) state, “If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up somewhere else” (p. 64).


 With our corrective and supportive feedback, we always remind children what the behavior goal is, meaning that, to give feedback that makes a difference, both the child and the adult need to have the child’s goal in mind. Parents should structure feedback around a behavior goal, in particular, what the child can do to come closer to his or her goal; focusing the child on strategies to reach the goal and staying away from what the child did wrong, or what the child must stop doing. Just by reminding the child of what the behavior goal is, we help identify aspects of her behavior that are helpful, as well as identifying and eliminating those behaviors that are not helping.  A long-term goal developed incrementally; that is, with smaller and easier steps along the way, or with short-term goals and mini-goals, will bring children closer to the bigger goal in small amounts. To keep children inspired and motivated in changing behavior and in acquiring new skills, nothing feels more encouraging than having success in their mini-goals.  Have your child create a mini-goal. Ask, “Where would you like to be in two weeks?” Help your child translate his answer into a specific behavior, asking, “Tell me one thing you can do, so that you get to where you want to be in two weeks.” Make Sure the Goal is Specific  Telling your child, “Do your best,” “Be nice with your sister,” or “Try harder” is not goal setting. Words such as “best,” “nice,” and “harder” are so vague that chances are that both your child and you have a different idea of what each word means. This is so because these words lack a behavior referent; your child will “do her best” or will “try harder” in reference to what? Ambiguous language has no directive properties. More specific and actionoriented language is telling your child, “Focus on getting eight spelling words correct,” “For the next twenty-four hours, you will refrain from cursing your sister,” or “Concentrate on beating your best time.” The clearer our feedback to children is, the clearer the outcome will be.


 More complex long-term goals should specify who (participants), where (e.g. classroom, lunchroom, grandma’s house), when (timeline), and how (steps). Make Sure the Goal is Realistic  With planned or strategic effort and the right skills, your child should be able to reach the goal. For instance, in a long-term anger management plan, first Devon was taught coping strategies such as breathing relaxation, visualizations, and positive self-talking. Only then goals matched to these specific coping strategies were created. A realistic goal is a goal that your child truly believes he can reach; in other words, your child must be willing but also able to do the work. With motivation and adequate skills, the goal can be both high and realistic. Make sure that you give your child adequate time to reach his goal. Match Behavior with Goal  Describe ways in which the child’s behavior did match the skill or goal, including the degree (e.g. good or fair) to which the performance matched the skill or goal. For example, you can say, “This morning, you shared your toys and played with your sister without bossing her. That’s a remarkable improvement from last week.”  Describe ways in which the performance did not match the skill or goal (e.g. “You need to improve…”). Match Praise with Goal  If all that we do is praising children, eventually, the motivation of the child fades away. Just think about it, how we can expect children to stay focused on effort and goals if they do not know how close from the target behavior or from the goal they truly are. This does not mean that we should not praise children; praise has an important role in motivating children, and there is nothing wrong in enthusiastically praising our kids. However, praise is more effective when is delivered in a way that reinforces our message; for example, telling the child, “I love what you did in grandma’s house (praise). Sharing your toys with your baby sister (observable behavior) showed maturity.” Instead of just saying “Good job,” tell the child that he

used a specific strategy or a specific procedure in a way that facilitated success. Engage Your Child in the Creation of Goals  The whole process of goal setting is highly motivational to children, especially when it leads to the discovery and application of strategies. Give your child active participation in both developing the goal and in formulating strategies, helping him draw from skills he has used before with related problems, and in applying mastered skills and known learning strategies to the present situation. Listen to your child’s ideas and engage him in deliberate planning to develop strategies that enable him to achieve behavior and academic goals. Focus on Strengths  Focus children on strengths, making your child aware of how her particular skills and abilities can help in achieving the behavior or academic goal. As a general rule, we should be commenting on twice as many strengths than weaknesses.  Focus your feedback on building and reinforcing strengths rather than on “fixing” weaknesses. To be able to focus on your child’s strengths, you need to spend time finding those strengths, or finding out what your child can do well on the specific task, skill, or behavior. Once you identify strengths, the next step will be to analyze how your child can apply those strengths to the part of her behavior or academic performance that needs to be improved. And right there, you can create a truly encouraging and inspirational feedback session, working with your child in figuring out ways in which she can use her strengths across different areas of performance. Communicate Positive Expectations  We reveal a lot about our attitudes and expectations in the way we phrase our feedback. See for example, these two statements:  Stop talking so rude!  I like it a lot when you use gentle words.


The first statement is stated negatively, almost calling for an argument with the child. By contrast, the second statement includes the same idea expressed in the first one, but projecting a supporting and encouraging attitude. With the first statement, we are letting the child know what we do not want her to do (cursing), but only with the second statement we clearly indicate our positive expectation: talk using gentle words.  Set your standards and raised expectations in terms of minimally acceptable performance (the lowest possible), not in terms of ceilings and/or best performance. For instance, you will be happy if your child gets at least a C in Geometry, you expect your child to spend no less than 20 minutes daily practicing the spelling words, or you want a minimum of two tantrum-free mornings this week. As your child ability to perform the behavior or skill gets better, you can raise your standard; for example, from two-to-four tantrum-free mornings. Make a Specific Recommendation for Change  Give your child a specific recommendation for change; that is, a step, a strategy, or a technique that he can follow to improve the performance or to approximate the goal. For example, saying, “You seem to focus better in doing your homework when you put toys and comics away, leaving only schoolwork next to you. How about trying that?”  A simple procedure to help us structure the way we give feedback to children can be, first, to make a comment on a positive aspect of the child’s performance (i.e. the way the performance matched or approximated the skill or goal), and then giving a specific recommendation for change, telling the child what he can do to match the skill or goal more closely. Alternatively, we can (a) tell the child clearly what we are looking for, (b) praise what he is doing right, (c) tell what is not right, and finally, (d) suggest new ways for accomplishing the goal. We need to make sure that the first or next step for correcting the behavior has been clearly identified. An example: “Timothy, lately, your homework seems to be taking you too long (what we are looking for). I like the way that you set up your pencils,

books, and notebooks in advance which shows that you want to do your work (praising the child). I also noticed that you seem to get distracted easily, in particular, playing with your toys and staring at your comics when you should be working (what the child is not doing right). You seem to focus better when you put toys and comics away, leaving only schoolwork on your desk. How about trying that (suggesting an alternative behavior)? You like this? Fine. Now, tell me what you need to do first… Okay, first you’re going to clear your desk of anything that is distracting to you (the first step)…” Notice how Timothy’s mother is using exclusively observational language or observations of behavior (i.e. what Timothy does/does not do) to give feedback to the child, steering clear from judgmental or evaluative language such as “You’re so lazy!” as well as from opinions revealing her frustration; for example, “I’m so tired of telling you the same thing over and over again!” Structure Your Feedback  Two common ways for giving feedback in a structured and positive way are: 1. Chronological Feedback or putting our observations (what we see and hear) in the right order or sequence, replaying the events that happened back to the child. 2. Sandwich Feedback or starting and ending our feedback with a positive comment, and then, we “sandwich” the information about what the child needs to be doing in-between the two positive comments. Do Not Overload Your Child with Too Much Information  Be careful with the “overloading of information” or giving the child too many details in one feedback. This is particularly relevant with younger or less mature children, and with children with low attention spans. To prevent this from happening, before giving your feedback, identify no more than three key points that you want to deliver to your child, and summarize your key points at the end of the feedback. Asking your child for a summary

or to paraphrase what you said (using own words) are also good strategies to check understanding. Asking your child to simply repeat the message is less effective, because children with good recalling but weaker comprehension will be able to repeat accurately without having a clear understanding of the information heard. To make sure that your child is not missing an important step or key point, you can use the following outline: “Okay, tell me what you need to do first… Good. Your second step will be… And finally, you will…” Begin on a Positive Note  When giving feedback to your child, always begin on a positive note, focusing on positive aspects before identifying the area that needs improvement. Before you correct the behavior, let your child know that you like some aspect of her current or past behavior; for example, “Chelsea, you always keep your room so neat. This past month I have noticed that your room has not been looking the same way.” We should always include positive information in our feedback, even when the child’s performance has not been up to the standard or goal. A short, supportive comment ensures that we address the important motivational factor in our feedback.  Deliver your verbal feedback as close in time as possible to the skill or behavior you are correcting. Make Feedback Relevant to Your Child  To help your child see relevance in your feedback, make your feedback relevant to your child. In other words, you need to see things from the child’s perspective or from the child’s shoes, valuing those things that your child values. Make comments about things that matter to your child and/or things in which she is making an effort. For instance, if Chelsea is working hard on neatness, do not overlook the precious opportunity to acknowledge her improved neatness. On the other hand, if neatness seems to be something that you value, but Chelsea cares little about, then focus your feedback on something else.

 To help you, the adult in the room, develop skills in perspective taking or in putting yourself in your child’s shoes, make it a habit of answering mentally these three questions: 1. What is my child trying to do? 2. How is he/she doing it? 3. Why is he/she doing it this way? As the adult in the room, put more emphasis in seeing things from your child’s perspective, and less emphasis on having your child see things from your position or point of view. Children can be trained, and should be trained, in perspective taking or in understanding the situation from other people’s points of view, and one of the most effective ways to teach children perspective taking is with a behavior modification technique known as modeling, or teaching children how to be sensitive of other’s needs by adults being sensitive of children’s needs. In plain terms, when we model positive behavior to children, we lead by example. Own Your Feedback  Own your feedback by using “I” a lot. Start your key point with an I-message such as “I have noticed,” “I observed,” or “I have seen.” I-statements help in delivering an assertive, self-confident message; also to stay focused on the issue, and in getting into the specifics. Immediately after the I-phrase, identify the topic or the issue and then follow with relevant information of what happened. Clearly Distinguish Between Intention and Effect  If your child is showing recurrent behavior problems, it is imperative that you give feedback that clearly and explicitly distinguishes between the intention of the behavior and the effect of the behavior. For instance, saying, “I understand you were trying to prevent Frankie from falling from the swings (intention of the behavior) and that’s why you grabbed him from the shoulders. Sadly, Frankie fell and bumped his head (effect of the behavior) and now he believes you wanted to hurt him (second effect).”

With this approach, we help children establish the important behaviorconsequence link, something that most children with habitually disruptive behaviors seem to be lacking. Attribute a Positive Intention  Notice how in the previous example, the parent ingeniously uses the technique of attributing a positive intention to the behavior. The truth is that most children (with or without behavior problems), when asked about a problematic behavior will try to “save face,” giving us a good or a positive reason for misbehaving. Parents that hear these kinds of excuses have two main choices: either they feel annoyed and make the situation worst accusing the child of lying, or they turn around the little guy’s pathetic attempt to justify the behavior, accepting the excuse as valid (i.e. without questioning or sarcasm), and using the whole experience as a valuable teachable moment for the child. The “grand finale” of this teachable moment would be asking the child, “What do you think you can do in a future occasion to tell Frankie to get off the swings without grabbing or yelling?” Separate Behavior from Character  Both you and your child must be able to separate actions or behavior from identity or character. For example, saying, “What you said sounded mean” (focusing on the action or behavior), not “You are mean” (attributing a mean quality to the child). Focus on Effort and Progress  To keep your child focused on effort, give more feedback about what he is doing right than about what he is doing wrong. With effort feedback, we stimulate the correction of errors, helping the child find alternative solutions or alternative strategies when the strategy that he is currently using is not working.


 Keep in mind that feedback on progress over a number of trials or attempts is more informative and encouraging than feedback on outcome given in isolation from progress. When we focus children on progress, we are helping them understand the process; that is, the actions taken and the procedures implemented to achieve an end. On the other hand, when we focus children on outcomes (e.g. scores, grades, or comparisons), we miss the unique opportunity of teaching the value in following steps and in using strategies to achieve the kind of success that, although slower and gradual, is long-lasting. Feedback that focuses on progress helps children understand that learning new skills or improving their behavior takes both time and practice. Parents’ feedback should always aim at helping children discover that process is more important than outcome.  Feedback about the processes inherent in the task or skill, also known as cognitive feedback, helps children develop awareness in: a. How they approached the task b. The connection between what they did and the outcome or results; for instance, understanding the link between poor effort and a poor outcome (e.g. a bad grade in the spelling test) c. Possible solutions or alternative strategies Focus Your Child on Strategic Effort  Help your child understand that not all effort is the right effort. If your child resembles sweet and quiet Lisa, already working hard on her academics but still falling behind, you need to explicitly teach her that effort is not about spending endless hours doing ineffective activities (e.g. writing her spelling words twenty times each); effective effort is strategic effort, more specifically, using the right learning strategy for the skill. It is obvious that writing the spelling words twenty times each is doing little in helping Lisa master the spelling of the words, strongly indicating that she needs to change the way she is practicing her spelling words. However, to be able to modify the way she studies the words, Lisa will need a variety of learning strategies, so that, when the strategy she is using is not working, she picks

from her menu of learning strategies a different strategy and tries something new. This way, if Lisa gets a disappointing score, we can tell her that she “needs to put her best effort,” making explicitly clear to the child that “best effort” means “better strategy.” Simply put, we help Lisa conclude that her low score in the spelling test did not come from a lack of effort, much less because of low ability, but from the fact that she did not use her study time in an effective and strategic way. With our strategic effort attribution, we are weakening Lisa’s self-defeating belief (e.g. “I’m dumb!”), encouraging her to keep trying until she finds a more efficient learning strategy to master her spelling words. Provide Alternative Strategies  To deepen understanding of alternative strategies, from the previous example, Lisa can brainstorm a list of different things she can do when studying for a spelling test, and then, she selects one or more strategies from the brainstormed list to try out when needed. For example: a. I will write each spelling word on a separate index card. b. I will trace each spelling word in the air with my finger (finger spelling) while whispering each letter in the word. c. I will say each letter of the word aloud while looking at the whole word, and then, I will cover the word and repeat each letter from my memory. d. Looking at the word, I will say each letter while jumping on a rope. e. Without looking, I will spell the word while jumping the rope. f. For two weeks in a row, I will separate 15 minutes of my daily study routine to practice three of my spelling words. g. The day before the spelling test, I will separate 30 minutes of my study routine to review all 20 spelling words. There are many other spelling strategies and study routines that Lisa can use, the important thing here is that the child identifies and applies the specific strategies and routines that work for her, throwing away those techniques that are not working.

What about behavior? Here is an example of alternative strategies that an anger-prone child can try; again, if one strategy is not helping, we tell the child to try a different one: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. I will count down from five to one I will walk away from the situation I will breathe from my chest: 1… 2… 3… in; 3… 2… 1… out I will think of something positive or something that I like I will visualize myself in a canoe on a lake I will go to a corner and silently do something that I like I will play with dough until I feel relaxed I will draw an “angry picture” to show my feelings but without actingout the anger i. I will punch my G.I. Joe instead j. I will kick my pillow instead

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