Leading and Caring for Children

Behavior Management Protocol

We don’t choose to start a formal protocol unless a behavior problem is difficult, really difficult, and nothing is working.

If you reached this page in sequence, you had to pass through many other ideas first. I put this topic last on the assumption that educators and parents, in fact all of us, have to do some personal work to be authentic, clarify our purpose, clearly communicate expectations, and be warmly accepting and caring, especially when we are upset. A challenging child is the perfect opportunity to show us our “Oops” where we have something to learn. Now you have arrived at the door of the Behavior Management Protocol where we address together with others those difficult problems that are not going away. We have to take a significantly different approach.

smashbwWhen I first began to work with young children in 1970, I volunteered at the Experimental Education Unit at the Haring Center of the University of Washington, which was dedicated to research, professional development, and services for children with disabilities. I encountered some of the toughest children I have seen, so I confidently feel I have been taught by the best. I was there three years before I moved to North Seattle College to lead the Laboratory School where difficult children were referred from the community. This Behavior Management Protocol summarizes all I have learned in dealing with very hard behavior problems — the tough guys and gals. The protocol is a logical sequence for a cooperative effort by those involved with a child to plan, document, reflect, and create the unique, effective conditions to help any child. If you have difficult behavior challenges currently, and have been applying the lessons from the previous pages, this protocol is for you.

Much Lies Ahead

Nineteen pages open from this portal. Each page incrementally presents a system for involving all the managers (educators, staff, families) in logical investigation and problem-solving to arrive at a community-constructed plan for dealing with a child when nothing else is working. There are no answers here. Rather, you can read about all possible options for your management community to consider and use a form to attain commited action. Fair warning: this is lots of work — many meetings with all the people involved and continuous record keeping.

We choose to rely a protocol because we have been challenged by a child, and we are bearing the emotions we carry as a result. We’ve got children who are acting out in destructive or counterproductive ways that continue on over months or years despite efforts to stop it. It can be as harmless as sucking one’s thumb and wetting the bed or as distressing as smearing feces, which was the worst thing I have encountered. Harmless to harmful, a difficult behavior continues to disrupt or inhibit a child’s future opportunities despite straight communication and a close relationship of listening and care. Straight communication might be, “Your thumb in your mouth says to people that you are not present and probably won’t talk to them.” “You are using strong language when you spread your feces in our school bathroom.” When combined with an authentic, loving personal relationship, tough behaviors gradually go away. If they do not, we start the Behavior Management Protocol, so we can discover ways of altering the environment so that old behavior diminishes and new ways of behaving emerge — the child’s and our own.

Systematic Collaboration

The protocol is effective because it fosters the best that we can be, and the best that others can be, as we work as a team. All of us together are smarter, more creative and incredibly organized. That collaboration requires a clear, systematic approach — a protocol — that optimizes the group’s ability to see what they need to change and be committed to act to make it happen.

A managing protocol provides a systematic way to manage the environment. It doesn’t change child; it changes us. This system’s strength is that it calls attention to the reality we face and provides an organization for an efficient, collaborative dialogue for discovering what works. Its strength lies in a common language, a logical progression, and agreement. Here it is:

Examine the Behavior

  • specify the behavior exactly
  • take a before measure
  • identify the A-B-C pattern

Initiate a Program

  • change consequences
  • pick a new good behavior to reward
  • change antecedents
  • continue to measure

As you can see on the navigation menu, each of these has a whole page detailed explanation with all options included. When all seven steps are understood, the management team makes a decision using the Management Protocol PDF. You can see it at work in the examples of three children: Sandy, Jeremy, and Charlie.

Before we start it is essential to examine the ways we talk about what’s happening with a child: Language and Reality. It helps to draw a few distinctions in order to have a common language in our work.

Next Language and Reality