Step 2: Develop Shared Expectations
Establish the Format
Once the teacher has agreed in principle and the two of you have agreed on areas of concern, explain to the teacher the goal of focusing your child away from inappropriate behavior and toward behaving responsibly by defining success behavior, using the same format you use at home:
“_____, you are successful when . . .”
Describe the three characteristics of well-worded success statements:
- Realistically reachable goals,
- Focused on appropriate behaviors and expressed in positive terms,
- With criteria of success that are clear to your child, the teacher, and you.
Be aware that meeting these characteristics can be challenging for a busy teacher who may find it easier simply to tell the child to “be good” or “behave” for part or all of the day. Gently emphasize the importance of greater clarity and detail, since “good” provides your child almost no guide to improved behavior or a time frame for expecting to be reinforced.
Define the Content
With that preparation, you are ready to select specific behaviors to modify. Since at school, academic performance, peer relationships, and respect for authority cause the most concern, consider your child’s needs in each area.
Academic performance may be addressed by defining specific levels of work on class assignments or tests. For example:
Morgan, you are successful when you have your math assignment turned in on time and at least 80 percent of your answers are correct.
Note that the expected amount of work and accuracy must be realistic, based on your child’s abilities and past successes. If Morgan typically fails most answers, it might be more realistic to expect as little as 25 percent correct and then to raise the level as the successes begin to mount.
Peer relationship problems can cause considerable difficulty even if a child has no academic struggles. Here is a sample item addressing such concerns:
Leron, you are successful when you willingly take turns while playing with the other children during recess.
Tailor any concerns in this area to what you know about your child’s struggles with peer relationships. Also make sure that there will be appropriate supervision so that accurate reports on your child’s behavior can be provided to you. For example, for Leron a playground attendant would have to be available to observe and report on his successes during recess.
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Children seldom misquote. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.
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Respect for authority is essential for children to take full advantage of the learning environment. Here is an example of a relevant item:
Sofia, you are successful when you cooperate with the teacher during reading circle.
It is important to come to an agreement with the teacher on a workable number of tasks, considering both your child’s needs and the many demands on the teacher’s time. Because handling a few items well is better than trying to do more than the teacher’s time allows, plan on no more than three or four items in all.