Thursday, August 30, 2012

the stoplight discipline method

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not too long ago, i posted about disciplining with natural consequences.  using "if...then" statements are how we try to handle Bear's challenging or inappropriate behaviors.  i'm going to be honest with you.  he is a strong-willed child, so it doesn't always work.  my son is a visual learner in that he often needs to see examples or pictorial clues. 
there are times when trying to "talk it out"  when he made poor choices just weren't effective.  after behaviors are repeated so many times, with the same natural consequences, it stops having a behavior altering effect.  so we moved to our contingency plan.  this is something i've had in my back pocket since my days as a preschool teacher... Stoplight Discipline.

it was a simple thing... i got out 3 craft sticks, one of each color green, yellow, and red.  Bear has known what the colors represent for quite some time.  it took me just a minute or two to introduce him to the process.  these were his sticks.  with good choices, he had all three.  for each poor choice, he looses a stick.  i then gave him the color definitions as illustrated below.  finally i told him that if he lost his red stick, then he would have help being redirected to another activity.

Bear carried the sticks in an empty watercolors plastic container for a few days.  after having to hand me sticks and earn them back several times, he would anticipate my asking for one and bring them to me unasked.  this showed me that he was developing an awareness of his actions and the ensuing consequences.  we only actually used them for a week or so.  it's been over a month since i introduced the sticks... now they sit on the counter.  through this, he has been able to connect this stoplight behavior method with actual objects because he's a visual/hands-on learner who does best with examples. all i need to do now is ask him if he needs to go get his sticks.  this is usually enough of a reminder to curb the undesirable behavior.

it doesn't always work. just like using natural consequences doesn't always work.  nothing works all of the time.  but it's a good back up plan for those times when i just. can't. seem to get through. 
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