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 are in a spot. We have been unsuccessful with a child, and we are emotionally drained. We’ve been living with a child who continues destructive and counterproductive ways, over months or years despite our best efforts to stop it. Those ingrained patterns can be as harmless as wetting the bed or as distressing as smearing feces or flooding the bathroom. What is most distressing to me is the knowledge that this pattern drastically alters this child’s future opportunities: if you spend your time destructively, you miss out on the best experiences of life.

We are here having worked on straight, honest communication and lots of non-judgmental time for growing a close relationship of listening and care. Most often with time to build an authentic, loving personal relationship, tough behaviors gradually go away. If they do not, we’re finding our window closing. When we can no longer continue with what what we’re doing, we start the Behavior Management Protocol. We need a systematic way to change what we do, so that old behavior diminishes and new ways of behaving emerge — the child’s new behaving 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. Often people begin by sharing opinions and judgments about what is and what is not happening, so discussions can go round and round without making a difference in what people actually commit to doing. The reality as to be agreed upon first, then conclusions drawn that provide a basis for a commitment among the managers. This necessity for grounded research is essential, so I begin with a discussion of Language and Reality, linked at the bottom of this page, to distinguish objective facts and socially constructed meaning from opinion.

That page then links to the Protocol itself, how to actually organize an efficient, collaborative dialogue for discovering what works. Its strength lies in a common language, a logical progression, and agreement. Here are the steps that open in sequence.

This is third level navigation menu. Since this WordPress template does not provide a third (or a fourth) level, I am adding a navigation menu to the end of each page. I recommend following the blue link to the next step at the bottom of each page, so things come up in a logical sequence.

The order is essential to understanding the protocol. When all seven steps are understood, the management team makes a decision using the form provided for writing down the options along the way. Behavior Management Protocol Form. You can see the protocol at work in 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