Who Changes Behavior?

A teacher recently shared a story with me about one of the oddest conversations the teacher ever had with a child. He was with a very bright, yet 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, the writer sat with the young lad after a minor infraction. During the conversation the teacher casually said something about, “Well, you know I can’t MAKE you behave; that’s something you have to want to do for yourself.”

The little boy responded, “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. What an eye-opener for what we do to kids with some of our behavior systems!

More information on this topic is available at http://marvinmarshall.com.