A Day In The Afterschool Program – Helping A Child To Make Good Choices


A young charge with emotional issues presented with a distinct pout and no eye contact. I imagine she was feeling remorse due to her antics the day before. She had a troubled home life. My young charge was clinging to her caretakers leg with all her might. This was characteristic of possible verbal altercations between the girl and the caretaker before she was dropped off to my program.. This mode of behavior would present itself when the child had visited her parent as well. Relations between the child ,her biological  mom, and mom’s boyfriend had ups and downs to say the least.

Upon assessing the situation, I made a mental note to not assume the worst for the day ahead. Assuming leads to the self – fulfillment prophecy. A child will become who the role models in their life believe they will become. In actuality, a child who is expected to behave badly will behave as such. In actuality, they are behaving in an accommodating manner. The child does as they are told. We send them the message that they will misbehave, thus they do so.  I decided not to force the little girl away from her caretaker. I had seen this mood before. This quite sullen behavior would turn into defiance and aggression if not handled correctly.

Several children were taken aside by me. I quietly informed them that there peer was having a sad day. The other children were cajoled into inviting the lone child to see their coveted items that were brought from home. The child had a small glimmer in her eye. Nonetheless, she wavered and held onto her caretaker’s leg. I thanked the other children for befriending their young peer. I was aware that the guardian had to move on to her place of employment. I used diversion, but no tricks. My firm belief is if a child feels tricked by a teacher trust between the two will be lost. There is nothing worse than having a child turn around to “look at something” in the room and find the person they hold in their heart missing when they turn around. Closure is important during separation.

Emotionally troubled children tend to act out from a sense of no control in their lives. Not surprising, this child loves to help adults. I told the child that I had no one to help me set the table for snack, get cups, and serve children. The child was encouraged to help me. Initially, my request was ignored. I sat back and silently assessed the situation. Balloons are a favorite in the class room. The child was encouraged to release her death grip on the other woman’s leg when I promised her a balloon hat in return for assisting me with snack. She happily said good-bye to the woman and set off with me hand in hand.

The child relished her role of authority while handing out snack to all that entered. While usually feeling inferior to peers, this made her feel superior. While serving with one hand, she held onto my hand with her free one. I allowed her to keep the grip on me until she felt safe enough to venture out into the room with her peers. After completing various activities, we cleaned the room. I attempt to have the children lined up and seated by the door five minutes before the grade school teacher comes to retrieve them. We normally play a game such as I Spy while waiting. I have found this assists in transitioning from my room to a new environment. Uprooting the children without warning is calamity in the making. They need transition times to adjust.

The grade school teacher appeared at the door way to pick up her young charges. This teacher had been complaining about the uncontrollable behavior in her class regarding the child mentioned above. As the children lined up the teacher asked them how their evening had gone. When the teacher locked eyes with the child mentioned above, she neglected to ask how this child’s evening had gone. The teacher immediately said “we are going to have a good day today right”?  She told the child that she knew the child would make the right choices.

The teacher thought she was being positive with the child. I had the distinct impression that this connection could have been handled differently. Other children were asked how their evening went. This child was immediately asked to make good choices. By asking this child a different question the teacher had singled her out from her peers. I would have asked the child the same question as her peers, than possibly told the child I was confident that she could make good choices for the day. The first statement shows that the teacher has an interest in her as a person. It doesn’t just zero in on her behavior. As the children slinked down the hall I saw the child stepping out of the line and getting loud. Another off day ahead for sure. It could have been diverted.

Remember – Always look at a situation within the classroom in a reflective manner. Look at the whole child. My rule of thumb is that no negative behavior rears its head without a reason. There is always an answer to the problem if we step back, and  observe reflectively. With that answer, we can devise a solution.

Mari N. M.ED.

Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more   http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

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