Responsibility and Behavior

Today I’d like to share with you a post from Discipline Answers. I think you’ll agree that while humorous, this post reveals a lot about what’s wrong with so many behavior modification approaches in use today.

“One of the oddest conversations I ever had with a child was with a very bright, very disruptive 7-year-old. He had a history of misbehavior at school with lots of office time and suspensions. At the beginning of the year I sat with him after a minor infraction and during our conversation I casually said something about, ‘Well, you know I can’t MAKE you behave; that’s something you have to want to do for yourself. And you get to think about your behavior and what you do here in the classroom.’ Those weren’t my exact words, but it went something like that.

“And this little boy looked at me and said, ‘You HAVE to make me behave. That’s your job.’

“We must have spent about 15 minutes in a conversation that ended up centering not on the misbehavior that had occurred, but on the idea that he had somehow picked up from kindergarten and first grade that it was MY job to be in charge of his behavior. He pointed out that I should or could use behavior charts (he knew of several) or prizes or stickers. He had all sorts of suggestions for me of ways I could change his behavior. It was hysterical, and he was not very pleased initially that I was not interested in buying into any of this stuff.

“Needless to say, although it took a while, this child did eventually figure out how to be in charge of his behavior in our classroom. I think and hope that the lessons he learned served him better in the future than his notion of teachers controlling him, but boy, what an eye-opener for what we do to kids with some of our behavior systems!”