. Dear Cheri ,
I hope that you can help me find a program to help my daughter and
grandson. . Here is the situation.
. My grandson is 7 years old & he is a very angry boy. .
Right now he is refusing to go to school and giving his mother, as
well as the staff at school a hard way to go. . He is fighting with
other students, disrupting the class room any way that he can. . The
other day, he was brought to his classroom and ran out, of course
the teacher told my daughter to take him home.
. I talked to her this morning, she is at her wit's end. . She
was even considering finding a Christian boarding school for him to
attend. . With the money situation, it seems to be out of the
question on her part as well as mine. . Besides, there seems to be a
location problem. . We live in Tucson, AZ
. He has no father in his life and/or male influence. . She is a
single mother, just lost her job & and has just started taking
medication for depression. . The depression problem seems to run in
. I know that you can't give me a miracle
cure, but I was wondering if you could suggest some resource that we
can take to get this boy on the right track again. . Any input from
you will be of great help in getting things going on the right path.
. Thank you in advance
. Dear Jean,
. I am happy to offer some suggestions that may help the
situation with your grandson.
. You describe a very unhappy little boy. . My first concern is
how he must be feeling about himself in relation to all the problems
he is experiencing at home and school. . A problem with difficult
children is that teachers and parents tend to get into a cycle where
they only interact with them in a negative way. . This not only
lowers the childs self-esteem, but teaches them to seek negative
attention because it is what they are used to. . Therefore, it is
important that you, your daughter, and school personnel immediately
focus on catching him being good whenever possible and immediately
reinforcing him for it. . Doing so can improve your grandsons
self-esteem, teach him what behavior is desirable, as well as help
his teachers, yourself, and your daughter view him in a more
positive light. . Children are extremely aware of what the grown-ups
in their lives think of them, and they will behave in a manner that
fits how they believe they are viewed. . In other words, if a child
constantly hears that he is bad from the important adults at home
and school, and he believes those adults think he is bad--he will
act that way.
. I would also strongly suggest that, if your grandson attends a
public school, that your daughter Advice from the School
Psychologist for help. . You can also request a team meeting at
school, which will allow your daughter an opportunity to meet with
his teachers, the school psychologist, social worker, and any other
school personnel that may interact with your son, and brainstorm
some ideas that may work to help improve his behavior at school. .
If your grandson does not attend public school, you may want to
consider moving him from the private school environment so he can
obtain special education services. . Or, if it is financially
possible, consider obtaining private consultation services from a
school psychologist or child therapist.
. It is most important to stop your grandsons dangerous behavior
at school. . He needs to speak with someone he respects and has a
positive relationship with about why it is not safe to run around
school hallways and why we should not hurt others. . I am assuming
this has already been done, but if not, it should be. . While he may
not change his behavior right away, he will not forget the
. My next suggestion would be to develop a behavior modification
plan. . This is generally the best way to change a childs problem
behaviors and teach them how they should behave instead. . There are
several things to consider when developing such a plan.
1. . Your grandson should be observed in both the home and school
environments. . It is important to note what happens when he
misbehaves, what happened before the incident occurred, and what the
adult response to the behavior was. . This is necessary to determine
which behaviors should be targeted for change.
2. . A behavior report can then be developed that specifies
problem areas. . However, the focus on the form needs to be on
positive behaviors rather than what he is doing wrong. . For
example, instead of listing, hits others, use, plays appropriately
with peers instead. . Behaviors you may want to consider include,
listening to the teacher, playing well with others, willingly going
to school, participating in class, and turning his behavior around
after an incident and acting appropriately. . Each item should be on
a five point scale. . Your grandson should be rewarded as long as he
obtains half the possible points on the form at first. . It is
important that rewards be accessible to him when the program begins
so he does not get frustrated. . As his behavior improves, the
number of points necessary for reinforcement can increase.
3. . Before the program begins, it will be necessary to come up
with rewards for appropriate behavior. . It is essential that your
grandson chooses what he wants to earn. . Many behavioral
interventions are designed and doomed to failure before they even
begin because some adult decides what a child will find rewarding
and the reinforcements are not something the child actually wants. .
It is important to designate daily reinforcements as well as larger,
weekly ones. . Oftentimes parents will offer young children large
rewards, such as going to the zoo, on a weekly or monthly basis when
children in general are not able to wait that long for a reward, so
they forget about it, or find it is taking too long, and so the
child gives up. . Small daily rewards help keep them focused.
. A daily reward that is extremely effective is Mom and Me time.
. In this case, if a child behaves appropriately during the day he
or she gets to spend a half hour with their mother or another adult
doing anything they want to do that is reasonable. . Generally, it
is best to sit down with your child and come up with several things
that he would like for a reward. . This can include things like
reading a book, coloring, playing with clay, etc. . The idea is for
the child and parent to engage in an activity both find pleasurable.
4. . Once the program begins, the behavior sheet should be
discussed every day. . When a problem occurs, it is important to
discuss with your grandson what he should have done instead of
misbehaving. . It is very common for adults to tell a child, Dont do
that! . without telling them how you want them to behave. . This can
be both confusing and frustrating to the child.
. A couple of other possible interventions come to mind when
reading your letter. . You mention that your grandson does not have
a consistent male influence in his life. . Big Brothers and Big
Sisters of America is an organization that usually has a chapter in
almost every large city in the U.S. . If you and your daughter were
to sign your grandson up for the program he would be matched with an
appropriate male adult who would spend time with him and give him
the attention that he needs. . The program is free and tremendously
helpful. . Also, you mentioned that your family is Christian. . I
have found that Sunday school and family Bible studies not only
teach a child how they should act, but provide an opportunity for
discussion to apply what the child is learning to daily life.
. Hopefully, these suggestions will give you somewhere to start.
. Keep in mind that school psychologists are available in public
schools and that others might be found on a consultation basis in
. I wish you the best.