Monday, November 5, 2012

A New Plan

I thought I had a great plan.

My son was disappointed that he had a major incident at school, and because of that he would not achieve the next Level anytime soon. Along with that, he lost his chance to his chance to go to our local area Legoland.

Kai’s teacher suggested that we make it a bit easier for him to earn the incentive, and we agreed that perhaps holding him to the standard of a Level change was a bit ambitious at this point. We all agreed that a safe month was more realistic, while still being very challenging for Kai.

In exchange for lessening this standard, Kai would have to write a note of apology to the teacher he bit and show sincere remorse.

Kai agreed to the new plan and I left for work on the morning of November 1 hopeful that he would have a good month at school.

We did not have time to have Kai write the apology note that morning, but he would do it immediately after he got home from school that afternoon.

After work, I received a phone call from my wife. Kai had had another major incident.

I was disheartened. It was only the first day of the new month. It was the first day of the new plan. And already the chance to earn his incentive was lost. Now what?

I was worried that this was the start of another bad period, where he would have major incidents every day.

In this latest incident, he again tried to hurt the same teacher he bit two days earlier. My wife had him write a note of apology, which we brought to school that evening.

Coincidentally, it was the day of our parent-teacher conference. We had been able to secure the last time slot of the day so that I would have time to get there after work.

We met privately with Kai’s classroom teacher and social worker while another staff member watched Kai. His teacher was very positive and encouraging. She showed us charts that showed how far above average Kai performed in math, and his charted progress for reading and writing as well. We discussed his academic work, which was generally very good. And we talked about his behavior.

His social worker noted that Kai’s behavior since he began third grade has been far superior to his past performance. And his latest incident, they said, was relatively minor.

(Note of clarification: the recent incidents were not with his main classroom teacher, but with another staff member who teaches him math and is also an aide in the classroom. He was not there that evening, but we gave Kai’s apology note to the main teacher to pass along).

His teacher had another suggestion for motivating him with a reward. She suggested that they could create a visual reminder that they would keep at his desk. At the end of every safe day at school, they would make a visual mark. After 25 consecutive safe days, he would have earned his trip to Legoland. A major incident would restart the clock.

We thought it was a good idea. A visual reminder that staff can point out might help to keep him calm before things escalate.

After conferencing we all told Kai about the new plan. He was not keen about it. He thought 25 days was too long. He did not feel confident that he could stay safe for that long.

But his teacher encouraged him. She told him that she thought he could do it. She told him that she would help him to stay safe.

Slowly Kai agreed. He said he would try.

Friday was his first day under the new plan. I am happy to say that he stayed safe, and had a really good day at school overall.

24 days to go.


  1. Go Kai, you can do it! I am glad you guys were able to came up with a plan to help your little guy stay safe! I am thinking positive thoughts for your family!


    1. Thanks, Geovana! He had another good day today. 2 down, 23 to go!

  2. Just a thought. What we had done with our son many years ago was to have daily objectives and not time. He got an immediate reward for a specific act (not merely an omission of a negative act...but a positive act on a better path). Frequently, when the focus is on not doing something...the mind is focused on that...and not on a positive action. To have the focus on the act...even if NOT to do it...keeps it always in the mind...and so a temptation to cross a boundary (it becomes enticing). As an have Kai consciously look at his teacher several times a day, make eye contact...and smile, is a positive act. If you add that he should ask the teacher a question on what was said or explained...or for him to give feedback to her instructions...perhaps giving a synopsis of her explanation to her would encourage him to listen closely enough to do well as making a human connection (the eye contact and smile)...which would take the focus off of NOT being bad to doing positive actions toward behaviors which would naturally lead to good behavior. A lot of positive feedback will naturally return from the teacher. He will get more positive attention...and I am sure he will be happy when his teacher returns his smiles.

    Just a quick thought. My father used to say that time is actually longer the younger you are. As time is measured as a percentage of life lived...a longer life leads to time seeming to speed up. A month for a 12 year old is a far greater percentage of his life than for a 60 year old. What we used to do was to always have incentives spaced in small daily increments. My son used to love working toward these as he got fairly immediate rewards while walking the same path as the longer term rewards. He got long term and immediate returns on his investment. He got to look forward to the long term reward because getting there was fun because it was given daily boosts of encouragement with daily incentives.

    1. Shiroi, I know what you are saying about having incentives in small increments. Our experience, too, has been that shorter-term incentives are much more effective. In this case, it was Kai who first suggested that he gets to go to Legoland as a reward for making Level 4. Since that seemed possible at the time, we agreed to it. But now that he did not make it, we are caught in a situation where we are keeping it as a longer term incentive... not an ideal situation. (We do, however, also have smaller rewards that he can earn more quickly).

      I like the idea for rewards for positive acts. I think the school does that, and perhaps we can talk to them about that more. You make a good point that reinforcing positive actions is better than trying to get him not to do something.

      Regarding time taking longer the younger you are, I whole heartedly agree that time seems to pass much more quickly as I get older. I will have to remember that what does not seem like a long time for me, will seem like an eternity for Kai.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your well considered thoughts.


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