I am a teacher of English from Argentina. I read your book and decided to put your great ideas into practice. I am implementing the system with a group of nine-year-olds. I am writing to you because I had a problem with a parent and I would like your advice.

One of my students behaves like a bully, hits his classmates and threatens to hit them outside the classroom. He pushes them or he sometimes makes them stumble and he told a classmate something like ” Kiss my ass” ( in Spanish, of course). I decided to send a note to his parents when he did this, and asked him to write the following:

Dear Mom and Dad,
Today I told a classmate to “Kiss my ass.”

When his mom read the note, she became outraged and decided to come and talk to me. She was quite rude and almost insulted me but I remained calm all the same.

This kid also has problems in subjects other than English and he once told me that his mom never punished him or paid any attention to him.

I just wanted to make him take responsibility. I would appreciate any suggestions.


Smart for staying calm!

Here are two strategies to keep in mind.

(1) Repair. Start off with an apology–even if it is unwarranted. Say something like, “I’m sorry this occurred.” (And you really are). “Let’s see how we can repair the damage.”

(2) Remember that the person who asks the question controls the conversation.

If a similar situation occurs, ask the parent, “What do you suggest?” If the parent goes on a rampage, say, “I understand, but what do you suggest?”

To the student, say, “Your behaving on level B is simply unacceptable.” Than ask, “What do you suggest we do about it?” Keep asking, “What else?” “What else?” until a satisfactory solution is ELICITED.

Your task is so difficult because the youngster is manipulating his mother—and she does not even realize it.

Just let him know that what he does outside of school is his business, but what he does in school is yours. Only acceptable behavior (levels C or D are acceptable) and that if he does not behave at these levels, he will own the consequence because he will choose it.

Finally, remember that if the youngster misbehaves, he is the one to feel the stress—not you. And that goes for his mother, too!

Review the chapter on “Classroom Meetings.” Put the problem on the table. It is the class’s problem because his behavior has an effect on the entire class. Let students come up with some suggestions, with the student present. Students hearing their peers is far more powerful than being told by an adult. The student lacks some “emotional intelligence.” His classmates can help him.