Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Watching for his cues

Last week Calvin had to write a standardized test at school, it happened to fall upon the day that I usually volunteer in the school. Upon arriving at the school that morning I was asked to take 4 high needs students to the library as they had already completed the test the previous day. Calvin was not in the group of students who came with me, he was disappointed that he could not be with me and the change in his morning classroom routine had him unsettled.

I came back into his classroom number of times throughout the morning and each time observed that he was escalating his behaviour in an attempt to get out of writing the test and to get a little more attention from his teacher. His teacher was getting drawn into his negative behaviour and was continually trying to get him back on task. I did not comment on her tactics but I did encourage Calvin to stay on task and get the work done.

Later that morning when I returned the 4 students I had been supervising to the classroom I noticed that all of the other students had finished the test and moved on to a new activity except Calvin. He was sitting at the back of the room with a barely opened test booklet in front of him. He had written and erased the same answer multiple times and he was clearly becoming more and more frustrated with each passing moment.

My heart broke for him, I knew that he was not going to be able to complete this task because he had become to disregulated. He needed help to become regulated so that he could complete the task. I asked his teacher if I could help him so that he could finish the test. She encouraged me to do so knowing that as a teacher I knew what I could and could not tell him with in the parameters of the testing. What she did not understand was that I did not need to help him with the test, he is bright boy, what he needed was help to calm himself so he could finish.

I crouched by his desk and talked to him – Calvin I see that you are having a really hard time getting this done this morning. I have seen Ms. B try again and again to keep you on task and you are continuing to be unable to get it done. We all really need you to finish this test before lunch time. So how about I sit here with you ( behind him and to the side) to help keep you on your task and when you get it finished you and I can go and get hamburgers for lunch. – His face lit up, okay Mom.

It took a lot of reinforcement and removing of extra pencils and such but he did get it done and he made the choice to do it because he was getting the external assistance he needed to complete the task. His teacher praised him for completing the task and then he and I left the school together to get some lunch before he had to be back.

Once we got to the car he and I talked about the morning events and about how his behaviour escalated. We discussed some other solutions to his problems and frustrations and then we moved one. There was no tantrum, there was no rage and he successfully completed the task assigned to him.

As I listened to this weeks Beyond Consequences online parenting class I found myself reflecting on last weeks events and how I dealt with this situation with Calvin. In the past I would have found myself unknowingly escalating Calvin’s behaviour as I started to get frustrated with his non compliance. I would not have taken the time to think about what was going on for him, about what was causing the behaviour I was seeing. Instead of being empathetic and understanding I would of just begun assigning consequences for unwillingness to complete the task as assigned and Calvin would of met me with more behaviour until he cycled into a rage.

Understanding and seeing my children’s behaviour patterns allows me to be a better parent because it helps my children to stay regulated and be successful in situations that would otherwise overwhelm them.

For the next 10 weeks I will be writing an article once a week on the theories that you can find in Beyond Consequences Volumes 1 and 2. Heather is offering a online parenting course that elaborate on her book and I am lucky enough to be participating. If you are interested in participating you can find more information on her website.


Lisa said...

Excellent post! It's so hard to see past the behaviors to the child but when you do it is so rewarding. Hoping the teacher learned a lesson too! ;)

Can't wait to hear more!

BT said...

That was the breakthrough for me too: stepping back in my mind and forcing myself to think about what my kids have been through and how hurt they are, and imagine what they must be feeling that is leading to the actions/choices/behaviours. I got it from BC. It was like a breath of fresh air when I stumbled across it two years ago. Made a huge difference in our parenting. At my best moments, I remember to imagine their hurting and address that as much as possible rather than the behaviour itself. When I have those days I wish I could do over, it's usually because I slipped up in this area. Thanks for this reminder!!!

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Lucky that your son's teacher was so flexible. Up until this year I worked in SPED (Behavioral intervention in the mainstream class) and it so easy to get sucked into the disregulation and negative power struggle you described when faced with the time restraints and curriculum pressures imposed by the larger classroom. It was great you could work it through for your son.