Leading and Caring for Children


His climbing on the furniture and cabinets every morning was distressing for the teachers.

Here is where we were when the A-B-C pattern was identified.


climbs on tables, ledges, and counters
climbs on tables, ledges, and counters

My first intervention started on day 5 (see the graph at the bottom of the page). I changed the antecedent to Take Extra Effort to Reward Others. I basically recognized the rest of the children in my class for sitting at tables or playing on the floor. I gave them lots of positive, one-on-one interaction.  I thought that if Jeremy saw that he was not getting the attention other children were getting, he might not climb as much. Jeremy is a wonderfully athletic little boy and is very agile when climbing up on furniture and jumping off. My co-teacher and I decided that as long as he was not going to fall and hurt himself or others, we would ignore him. We would just not acknowledge that he was doing it. Although for his safety, one of us would be close by. Here is the new A-B-C pattern.


I saw the count drop from 12 to 3 instances in three days, but it shot back up to 12 on the fourth day. It didn’t seem that the attending to peers antecedent change was having any effect. Additionally, the ignoring had varying results. I know that when one uses Ignore the frequency is supposed to go up and then taper off. Well, it certainly did go up. When we ignored his climbing on counters during circle time, he would yell at us to get our attention.  When we did not attend, he would jump down and climb something else. “Look at me, teachers!” The other children had a hard time ignoring; some would laugh at him; others were frightened or concerned; some wanted us to know he was climbing again. Even though he was not getting teacher attention, he surely had the attention of the class, and we were worried for his safety.

I decided to try Positive Practice. Every time he climbed on a table I took his hand and had him walk to the table and sit in a chair five times. When he climbed on a counter, I had him practice walking to the shelving and take out objects five times. Afterward he usually found an activity and ceased climbing on the furniture. Here is the new A-B-C.


Jeremy would hang his head down and not say anything during the Positive Practice sessions, but he would grudgingly fulfill the five repetitions and then go on to doing an activity. The first day the number of climbs soared to 14, but three days later the number was zero. During this time I was careful to provide positive interactions, which he seemed to enjoy. While I was attentive to him, he did not attempt to climb on the furniture.

I also saw that the main reason for Jeremy’s behavior was the lack of interesting activities for him to do. The classroom set up when he first arrived in the morning encouraged his climbing, too. Since tables and tops of counters were always clear without any objects on them, it was easy, convenient, and fun for him to climb on top of them. My usual practice has been to not set out activities until all the children had arrived, so there was this time of the day when he had an open opportunity to climb and not much else to attract his interest.

I decided to try the antecedent Set the Stage. I set baskets of toys and blocks on top of the counters and set out fun and interesting activities for the children to use immediately when they arrived in the morning. Hopefully Jeremy might be excited to participate in the activities instead of feeling bored and entertain himself by climbing.

I also decided to reward a substitutable behavior: climbing where it was appropriate, outside on the playground. I focused on attending to him when he did tricky things on the climbers or jumped down from the playground structures. Here is the new A-B-C.


The results were encouraging. Incidents of climbing averaged 2 per day. Climbing on cabinets which were full of toys virtually eliminated that option for him. He seemed happy to have all my attention out on the playground when he was climbing on the climbers. He was excited to show me his jumping, too. I was pleased, too, but the indoor climbing was not completely gone.

I did not want to make any changes in the current plan, but I thought I could add one more antecedent change that would benefit Jeremy. I was seeing how he was used to getting negative responses from adults and how much he enjoyed positive responses to things he was doing well. I wanted him to have more skills that he could be proud of, so I decided to try Teach a New Skill. Everyday on the playground I would get out the big plastic bat and a ball and slow pitch to Jeremy as he tried to hit it. Here is the new A-B-C.


He was very excited to work on this new skill with me. As I coached him on his batting stance his eyes would light up. This final addition appeared to be the one that worked the best; the indoor climbing began to bottom out with five days of zero and then disappeared entirely on the 35th day of this program.


Before I started measuring I had no idea how many times he did it or why it varied from day to day. Seeing the actual numbers enabled me to evaluate what kind of changes I should make. Looking at the frequency going down was encouraging to me. Graphing the data was even more exciting as the dots went lower and lower. Measurement was also helpful for me because I could step back from the frustration I’d feel when he was climbing on the table for the tenth time. Instead of a focus on my own emotional reactions, I could see that it was just a behavior, added a mark to the tally, and kind of enjoyed the challenge of making a change.

The Before Measure helped me weed out the gray areas of what constituted “climbing on furniture.”  I decided not to count when he knelt on chairs or sat on tables. Furthermore, I took time during that first week to talk to my co-teacher and involve her in this process. We ironed out the communication we needed to monitor and tally together.

Jeremy taught me something very important to my life as a teacher. I teach in a school for abused and neglected children, and several of my three- and four-year-old children have serious behavior problems. It was essential that I went through the daily measurement and the steps of trying different A-B-C patterns, because I was truly experiencing my own development. I also was proud that I believed Jeremy could succeed.

How do you see the Behavior Management Protocol affecting this teacher? 

What would you guess is happening to the other children in the classroom who are seeing active, skillful Jeremy and watching what the teachers did?

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