Case Study of a 4.5-Year-Old Boy with Severe Behavior Problems in Pre-School
By Dianne Hall – Sydney, Australia
This is a synopsis of the study. It does not contain references, graphs, or illustrations.
The child’s problem was angry, aggressive, impulsive, and with non-compliant behaviour. He did not have the skills to control these impulsive reactions to transform himself into a child who could control his behavior and make choices that would enable him to have a successful transition into Kindergarten. He simply lacked socially acceptable skills.
By teaching the four levels of the Hierarchy of Social Development children were taught to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Level D, the highest level, triggers internal motivation and the feeling this level emanates is a key to the success of teaching the levels.
Dr. Marshall’s system had created a transformational change in me. It changed the way I both spoke to children and taught them. It was an experience that equated to powerful feelings of joy, wonder, and awe. It was an experience that left me with a feeling of being deeply moved or shaken to my core.
As the classroom teacher of the study, I realized that we cannot go back to disciplining the way we did in order to bring about improved behavior from the child.
The Raise Responsibility System was taught to the whole class, not just to the child in this case study. There was no mention of a child being labeled good or bad, but there was feedback on what behaviours were acceptable or unacceptable. There was no positive or negative language used, just simple explicit observations of what I could see, and they were verbally articulated and directed to both the child and the whole class.
The children were never ‘told’ what to do; instead, they were taught procedures and expectations that were explicitly modeled and practiced until all children were aware of what behaviours were acceptable and unacceptable.
To be able to judge whether the child had been transformed in a positive way I was looking at the following shift. (Results are in italics.)
1) Had aggressiveness towards teachers been reduced? Yes
2) Had aggressiveness towards other children been reduced? Yes
3) Did he become more compliant to the requests of teachers? Yes
Note: There is evidence to show that the child does not comply with teachers’ aides or other teachers who were not familiar with the Raise Responsibility System.
4) Did he display less anger? Yes
Note: He displays less outbursts of anger in the classroom and in the playground. His voice has lowered in the classroom and he appears to be much happier. He understands a clear difference between an acceptable ‘inside’ voice as opposed to ‘unacceptable angry voices.” He is smiling more than he was at the beginning of the year and will actually pose for photos with a smile, compared to the first weeks of school when photos were taken of him and he refused to smile at all. He now joins in with singing and responds to his name being called on the roll in the morning with “Good morning beautiful Mrs. Hall.”
5) Had he been able to control his own aggressive behaviour? Yes
Note: His reaction to impulsively hitting others has been significantly reduced. This is evident in the classroom notes and observations.
6) Did he make better choices to enable him to have a successful transition into Kindergarten? Yes
Note: Definite changes are clearly visible, not only in the child but also to his classmates. Through observations and data collection submitted, the boy was indeed given tools to assist him in making choices that would create less anger, less aggression, and fewer negative feelings. Once prompted to check his own choice of levels, he made a connection with the choice that would trigger positive feelings as opposed to negative consequences. More often than not, he made the choice that was ‘above the line’—that were acceptable. He has made many more friends, and the children are not scared of him any more. They are willingly playing with him and sharing their toys with him, too.
We can conclude that data from my classroom observations, parent interviews and anecdotal notes of his interaction with his peers and teacher (when compared to the observations made before the intervention was implemented), the combination of teacher and parent intervention using the Raise Responsibility System and its use of positively framed questioning techniques that required no punishment or reward (but rather directed at the behaviours that we wanted to witness), all helped to contribute to the child’s successful transition into Kindergarten.
He is responding very well to any staff or to his caregivers that are familiar with the Raise Responsibility System and the positively stated questioning techniques used by those people. However, whenever he has to work with other teachers, or teachers’ aides who are not familiar with the system, he reverts back to non-compliant, unacceptable behaviour. This was noted on a day when another teacher left notes telling incidents of non-compliance and her approach to handling him throughout the day using a series of rewards and then taking them away when he did not comply.
The only problem is that not all people working with my children are trained in the system. Therefore, I will ensure that teachers’ aides will be trained with this model just as parents need to be. Also, the children in the class will need to be trained to independently refer to the levels even when another teacher or person is in the room.