Leading and Caring for Children


Whining becomes screaming for Sandy; it’s not a good way to live.

Here is the A-B-C pattern when Kate Hover, the author of this story, defined the behavior and took a before measure. What follows below is what she wrote about Sandy, demonstrating the way this protocol worked for her over a six-week period.


whining, crying, screaming, throwing
whining, crying, screaming, throwing

After thinking through the consequences, I decided to deny activities for Sandy when she had a screaming incident. After she calmed down from her fit, I explained to her the importance of being able to handle events in her world without screaming. “Words work pretty well, if you use them; people can understand words.” I told her that if she was not talking to people about her feelings in words, she would not be allowed to go the centers she liked, especially the listening center and the computer center. All of us have a responsibility to others in our community.

After going through the process of looking at all the alternatives with the Protocol Form, this is what we decided to try.


I noticed after a week of denying activities the behavior did seem to go down quite a bit, down from 12 on average to 8. (See the graph below.) However, I did not like to keep reminding her that she would not be able to do activities I really wished for her to do. I felt there ought to be a better way to deal with this without restricting her access to things.

In the next week I decided to ignore the behavior. When Sandy started a fit, I walked away, leaving her alone. If other children went over to watch her, I would talk to them and engage them in a conversation. When Sandy did try to work out a problem verbally, I made sure I paid attention and sought her views.


This was still unsatisfactory, because she was still doing it. I tried Postive Practice, which meant I had to be be there to interrupt and invite her practice a better way. I had told everyone at the art table they could only have 4 sheets of watercolor paper today, because it was expensive. I thought it was important for everyone to have their share. “I want another one,” she whined when she had done four. I reminded her of the expectations, and she had another screaming fit. I walked away to let her calm down. When I thought she was able to talk to me without crying or whining, I went back to her to review what happened. We practiced her saying, “I really wish I could do another.” She said it this new way five times. I could not believe it that she was willing to practice it.


My final change was to make sure I noticed whenever she verbally communicated what she was feeling. When I noticed her talking to another child at a tense moment, I gave her a thumbs up sign, for example. After several of these, I invited her to help me set up lunch and choose the book to read to the class, things like that. I could tell it helped her to belong to the community and be a contributor.


Here is the graph of the measures.


Overall, I don’t know which change worked the best for Sandy. Maybe the combination of ignoring the inappropriate and rewarding the appropriate was what brought it down from a high of 23 to zero. The very act of measurement enabeled me to to look at what was working or not working. It was amazing to see in this short time that Sandy had stopped this habit pattern. Now my days are more pleasant, and I go home happy. I come to work happy and ready, too. Sandy seems more in control of herself and knows how to reach me, and I know how to reach her, too.

How do you see the Behavior Management Protocol affecting Kate?

What would you guess is happening to the other children in the classroom who are seeing Sandy and watching Kate?


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