Thursday, November 12, 2009

If you have to resort to a time-out, you work with the child, not against him


"It seems to me that you are having a bad day, Joey, and you are really restless and can't sit still. Is that so?"
If he says "no, that's not so." then say "Okay, so you think you can sit still?
Okay, let's give it a try -- and if you or I see that that is not working, then it will be time for you to go over to the book corner until circle time is over."

Before resorting to a time out -- perhaps soon after the previous time-out -- the teacher must find some one on one time with this child.

"Joey, I really feel sad when I have to ask you to leave our circle time. I really want you to be able to stay with us. How do you feel?"
"So I'm trying very hard to figure out what we can do to help you settle down and enjoy circle time instead of .... (describe in neutral terms whatever he does) talking when other people are talking and touching other kids and wiggling and getting up and running around. Do you have any ideas about how we can help you sit still and pay attention to what other kids are saying?"

Kids often do actually have ideas and any semi-reasonable idea, with teacher modification, should be given a try.

One thing I have tried is to enlist other kids as helpers to the restless child. Ask him if there are any other children he thinks could help him. He will name children he likes and respects. Ask him what he thinks those children could do. He will probably say something simple like "Tell me to settle down." Then you can meet with him and his selected helpers --

"Randy and Mary, I have been talking with Joey. You know what sometimes happens for Joey at circle time?" (They will know!)

"Right. He really has a hard time sitting still and keeping quiet until it is his turn. So he said he thought you Mary and you Randy could help him by telling him "Settle down Joey" when you feel him getting revved up. Do you guys think you would be willing to help Joey?" (They will.)

This of course is not fool-proof -- but really what is the purpose of circle time? To build community and build relationships. So if all the other children can get an investment in wanting to help Joey instead of seeing Joey as the teacher's enemy and the "bad kid" circle time will be a very different experience.

So -- the first circle time under the new plan -- the teacher tells the whole group

"I think you all know that sometimes Joey has trouble sitting still during circle time. So Joey and I and Mary and Randy have come up with a plan to help him. Here is what we will be doing..... Joey, do you want to add anything?...... Mary or Randy? Anyone have any questions or thoughts?"

I wouldn't be surprised if someone said "We can all help! We can all say "Settle down Joey."

"I think it is wonderful that you all want to help. But I'm kind of thinking that if I were Joey I might be overwhelmed if everyone yelled "Settle down Joey" at me. What do you think?"

and so forth -- the whole circle time for that morning could be engaging the whole group in problem solving.

It has to start with the teacher modeling non-judgmental caring inclusion of Joey. And of course if Joey is a shy child then a very different approach would be appropriate. Sometimes I have had kids sit in my lap, or sit right next to me, so that I can help them secretly by reaching out and tapping on their knee, and then they tap back on my knee to show the "get the message." (This of course also provides something else for them to concentrate on and a little action to control the fidget.)

By: Karen Fite

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