Friday, January 13, 2012

Discipline Help: Practice Academy

Lately, our daughter, Lily, has been going through a really challenging phase.  It is typical for children between the ages of 7 and 9 to go through a lying phase.  Lily has begun 'stretching the truth' and is also disobeying me on occasion.  Since this is a heart issue, and an issue of character, we have had the same lecture that we gave to our older children regarding telling the truth.  We have always made it a point to teach our children about how our behavior should honor God.  We tell them that God's Word teaches us that lying is a sin.  Practically speaking, being dishonest may put us in danger later, as their daddy and I cannot believe their words when they lie.  While this phase may be typical for her age, it is not a given that she will outgrow lying.  At this stage in her development, we must hold her to the standard of honesty and integrity.  We call her out when she is lying.

Likewise, her disobedience is not just a character issue, but a dangerous liability.  This past summer, our church hosted Pastor Peter Ajemo from Suba, Kenya.  Pastor Peter told the story of how his son was about to enter their chicken coop, unaware that a 9-foot cobra was inside.  Pastor Peter was on his way to deal with the cobra, when he saw his precious child with his hand on the door to the coop.  He called out to him to stop, and he did--immediately. 

While we may not deal with literal cobras here in Texas, we certainly deal with figurative cobras all the time.  There are dangers that are just as deadly to our children.  If we allow our children to disobey us when the coast is clear, then when it is a matter of life or death, their disobedience will be deadly.  Many years ago, I was putting together a safety plan for our family in the event of an emergency like a fire or tornado.  I thought about my sweet children and wondered if they would do as I ask without questioning me in an emergency.  From that point on, I took seriously our roles in teaching our children to be obedient.

This evening, Lily did something I told her not to do.  She has been challenging me all week, and I determined to step up my game.  I decided to give her a practice academy.  I learned about practice academies last year in my Exceptional Students class.  We had a guest lecturer who was a Behavior Interventionist.  She had the most interesting ideas for changing behavior.  I learned so much, and one of the strategies that I've used in the classroom is the practice academy.  The way it works is that you have the child practice following the direction that you desire.  In Lily's case, she needs to say, "Yes, ma'am," and do what I ask.  Brian and I gave her a series of simple commands to follow:  "Go over to the counter and pick up that paper," and "Put those cups into the sink," for example.  If Lily fails to say "yes, ma'am," or "yes, sir", then she has to go back and do it all again until it becomes natural.  I've already done it twice tonight, but it didn't take as long to get the right response this evening when we did it the second time.  I'm not trying to break her spirit; I'm trying to teach her to do the right thing. 

We use a similar technique in special education, when trying to reinforce positive behavior and diminish negative behavior.  I am learning a great deal about this, and attended a day-long training through the school district specifically designed to help paraprofessionals to manage challenging behaviors.  We listened to a lecture and watched videos demonstrating techniques for encouraging our students to wait and to follow directions and that help to diminish problem behaviors like hitting, blurting out, and self-stimulation (these are behaviors that the student does which are pleasing to him or her, like rocking, flapping, chewing on things, etc.).  There is so much to learn, and the behavior interventionists that help us in the school district are so full of vital information.  I have to say that they also deal with a lot of challenging situations with grace and perseverance.  It was fascinating to me.

Next week, I begin what I hope will be my last night class for a while:  Teaching English Language Learners.  It has been strongly suggested to me that I should get my certification in English as a Second Language (ESL).  So, God willing, I will be ESL certified, as well as Special Ed. and General Ed. EC-6th grade.  It has been a lot of work so far, and while I pray that I am closer to my goal of being a full-fledged Special Education teacher, it still seems like I have a lot more to do.  I keep reminding myself that God is in control and that He has called me to this path for a purpose. 

Many blessings,


1 comment:

  1. It takes a special person to be a Special Ed teacher, so I know your heading in the right direction. Success in everything you do! Thanks be to God for your continued success.