Prevention Strategy #3: Offer Straightforward Explanations for Limits

When students (and adults) understand the reasons or rationale for limits, they are more likely to comply. They may not like it, but at least they understand the reason. Teaching students the “why” of a limit helps them internalize and learn the rules of social living.

Offer Explanations. Here’s some examples. “The sand stays down low so that it doesn’t get into people’s eyes.” “When you put the balls back, students can find them when they want to use them.”

Incorrect Response:

Educator: “Pick up your trash.”

Student: “It’s not my trash. Why do I have to do it?

Educator:Because I said so.”

Correct Response:

Educator: “Oliver, please pick up the trash around your table.”

Student: “It’s not my trash. Why do I have to do it?

Educator:That’s a good question. I know that it’s not all your trash, but I’m asking different students each day to help clean up the area around them, so the table is clean for the third graders. Thanks for helping today,” and walk away expecting that Oliver will comply.


Image Source: conversation-bubble []

Prevention Strategy #2: Make Limits Effective

We looked at prevention strategy number one. Today we’ll look at prevention strategy number two make limits effective.

Direct Instruction. We make the mistake of believing children know how to line-up, listen, walk in hallways, share, take turns, etc., but often they do not. Provide direct instruction and opportunities to practice desired behaviors. Example: “Samantha, stand here. Dominick, stand behind Samantha,” or use visuals. Use reinforcement for correct behavioral responses. When children do what is expected, praise them.

Counting. The problem with counting and repeating instructions over and over are that they teach students NOT to listen.(1)  Children know they’ll have several more chances to comply. Train children to respond on first request. What behaviors do you need to train your children about? Why do parents and educators like counting for behaviors?



  1. McCready, Amy. Why Counting 1-2-3 Isn’t Magic (Plus 4 Tools to Use Instead)
  2. Image: behavior []

Prevention Strategy #1: Establish Clear, Consistent and Simple Limits

We looked at ineffective guidance strategies in my last blog. Today is the first of ten prevention strategies, part of 13 guidance strategies that work. The first strategy is establish clear, consistent and simple limits.

What are Limits? “Limits are statements of what behavior is appropriate. They ensure students know what is expected. Limits should be clearly related to the safety and protection of self, others, and the environment.”(1) “Be Safe. Be Responsible. Be Respectful.” are the most common limits I’ve seen. Examples: “Inside we walk.” “We throw balls outside.” “Chairs are for sitting on.” “This can is for recycling; this one is for garbage.”

Agree on Guidelines. For educators, agree on what the guidelines are for: lining up, dismissal from cafeteria, play areas, getting on bus, etc. At home, decide on the guidelines for general behavior and specifics like clearing dishes off the table or bedtime routines.

Consistency is Critical. Try not to pretend we didn’t see a misbehavior. When educators or parents don’t feel good it is easy to pretend that we didn’t see the misbehavior, so we don’t have to use our energy to deal with it. Whether we feel good or not, setting limits works best when we’re able to reinforce the behavior consistently over time. What behaviors do you set limits on? What is difficult about being consistent?



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior, BC Health Planning, 2003.
  2. Image: Know the rules []

What Guidance Strategies Don’t Work?

Before we look at what works with children or students, let’s look at what doesn’t work. What guidance strategies don’t work with children or students?

Ineffective, Inappropriate and Unacceptable Guidance Strategies

  • Counting “1, 2, 3 . . . “
  • Repeating
  • Yelling
  • Threats, usually overstated
  • Bribes
  • Sarcasm
  • Inconsistency
  • Belittling
  • Withholding love and affection
  • Silent treatment
  • Controlling through shame or guilt
  • Forcing promise from child
  • Acting like a child or student. Remember, you are the adult!

If you’re like most parents or educators you’ve tried some of these to no avail. You’ve probably discovered that they are ineffective and don’t work. Why do we keep doing what doesn’t work?

It’s what we know. It could be how we were raised as children or how we’re raising our own children. How ever we came about using ineffective strategies, we need to stop. What ineffective, inappropriate or unacceptable guidance strategies do you use?

But it is hard to stop doing something unless you have something to replace it with. In the next 13 blog posts you’ll learn to replace these ineffective strategies with guidance strategies that work. You’ll learn ten prevention strategies and three intervention strategies which equals a baker’s dozen.


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Restorative Questions and Reasons We Don’t Ask, Why?

What are Restorative Conversations?

A restorative conversation is any conversation that uses restorative questions in which an issue is approached with an open mind to:

  1. “Truly understand what happened
  2. Authentically listen and provide a space where everyone involved authentically listens to one another
  3. All voices are heard
  4. Focus on the impact the situation/actions had on others and the larger community
  5. Identify any unmet needs (especially for those harmed), and
  6. Determine what needs to happen to make things as right as possible moving forward.”1

Traditional Restorative Questions

The International Institute of Restorative Practices sells business sized cards that ask the restorative questions. Side 1 are the questions to ask the offender, the person who caused harm.

  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking at the time?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who has been affected by what you’ve done?
  • In what way have they been affected?
  • What do you think you need to do to make things right?

Side 2 questions are to ask the victim, the those affected.

  • What did you think when you realized what had happened?
  • What impact has this incident had on you and others?
  • What has been the hardest thing for you?
  • What do you think needs to happen to make things right?

Lecture? A key reminder: there is no question number six that says, “Now give them a lecture.” It’s tempting to insert your wisdom into the process but it’s not your conversation. Trust that the process of asking the questions leads students to resolve the conflict. As needed, summarize the conversation and invite the students to reflect on what they’ve learned.

Why? You may note that there is no question that asks why? There are several reasons we don’t ask, “Why did you do that?” First, it’s not helpful or relevant to resolving the conflict. Second, the students don’t usually know why. Third, if students dig for a reason it often ends up being a rationalization or justification which goes against the process of taking personal responsibility.

Source: What are restorative conversations?

Restorative Practices Changes You

Often we focus on how restorative practices can change our students and school climate. But it can also change us . . . those responsible for implementation. One Cohort 2, year 3 administrator tells his/her story.

                “Restorative practices has affected me personally by changing the way I interview and question kids about behaviors by using restorative questioning techniques.

                This has affected me by creating a shift from punitive actions and a ‘remember what you did’ mindset to working to develop a sense of community and responsibility. This has led to a more productive and trusting relationships with students and parents.

                It has changed the way I interact with my own children.”

How has restorative practices affected you personally?

Fake Apologies

You’ve heard of fake news. Well there are also fake apologies. We shouldn’t be surprised that students can by cynical about apologies. They may wonder what’s in it for them. Teacher Rosalind Wiseman says, “They witness ‘fake’ apologies amongst their peers and see adults who treat them disrespectfully, abuse their power and who would never think to apologize.”1 It’s not hard to realize how challenging it is to convince students that apologies are not just superficial gestures. “So, if we want to talk to them about the power of a genuine apology to transform relationships, we have to acknowledge and define fake apologies.”1

Wiseman says that a fake apology has four aspects.

  1. “Has an insincere tone of voice, sometimes accompanied by body language, like sighing and eye-rolling, to further communicate their true feelings.
  2. Tries to make the other person feel weak for wanting the apology. For example, ‘If you really feel that strongly about it, then fine, I’m sorry’ or ‘I apologize if I offended you,’ or ‘I wouldn’t have cared if it happened to me.’
  3. Manipulates the person apologized to, usually in order to get something the apologizer wants. For example, ‘I’m sorry, can you please just drop it? If you tell x teacher, I’m going to…’
  4. Talks about themselves and how they’ve been affected by the situation and doesn’t take responsibility for their behavior.”1

When working with students these aspects should be keys to a false or insincere apology is taking place.

Source: The Power of Real Apologies in a Fake Apology World, Rosalind Wiseman, Rosalind’s Classroom Conversations, June 2014

Signs Your Child Has a Bad Teacher

empty_classroom 284164

Your kids started the school-year not that long ago. Yet your child is already complaining. Is the problem your child or the teacher?

Although children can create behavioral challenges, teachers can also instigate problems. Your child may complain that the teacher yells. A teacher who yells is out of control. The louder the students, the more the teacher yells and grows angry.

Yelling and Fear

This can create fear in some children, not to mention being poor teaching practice. My daughter complained about this one year, but when I helped in her classroom, the teacher raised her voice slightly in a stern voice. My daughter perceived that as yelling. However, typically when children report yelling, the teacher is out of control.

Softer and Quieter

Good teachers know that the noisier students get, the quieter the teacher’s voice gets. A “look” works better than a raised voice. The teacher also gets closer to the disruptive students. For example, a group in the back is rowdy. The teacher walks near the group and softly says, “I need this group to stop talking and listen.” Most of the remainder of the class doesn’t even hear and class goes on.

Negative Treatment

If your child complains about how the teacher treats students, the teacher may be labeling or embarrassing children. Such actions as put-downs, belittling, sarcasm, labeling “stupid” or “slow,” or making fun of children are all completely unacceptable and demonstrate a lack of respect for children.

Teaching Styles

Teachers have different teaching styles that your child may need to adjust to; however, being treated disrespectfully is one of the most common ways the teacher is the problem. Maybe the teacher refuses to model the lesson more than once.

What’s the Real Story?

If you sense there is a problem, don’t go to the principal or the school board. Speak directly to the teacher. If it is still unresolved, you can then ask to speak to the teacher’s supervisor. Remember, you always want to get both sides of the story. By listening to both your child and the teacher, you can obtain accurate information. Then you’re prepared to make the best decisions for your child.


Image Source: empty_classroom 284164 []

Start a Gratitude Journal During COVID-19

“Gratitude is taking a snapshot of an outstanding moment and

 filing it away in your heart.” – Coach Bobbi

A lot of what we hear and see these days about the COVID-19 pandemic is frightening and upsetting. “Journaling is an amazing tool for working through your thoughts and emotions, which can be incredibly helpful during chaotic times like this.”1

“Writing helps to organize thoughts, facilitate integration, and helps you accept your own experiences and put them in context,” says Dr. Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis.2  “In essence, it allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”

For instance, in all the confusion of what to touch or not, mask or no mask, what can I be thankful for?

In January I bought a glass “blessings jar.” Each night I write on a 1.5” x 2.5” index card a blessing from the day. Some days it’s easy, while other days are more challenging. Monday’s blessing was an iridescent hummingbird in our yard for the first time. As a back-yard bird watcher this thrilled me. Today was wild blackberry frozen yogurt.

Improve Your Health by Giving Thanks. Gratitude has not only emotional benefits, but physical benefits as well. People who practice gratitude consistently report a host of health benefits. Here’s five of them:

    • immune systems are stronger,
    • not as bothered by aches and pains,
  • blood pressure is lower,
  • get better sleep, and
  • have fewer symptoms of illness.2, 3

Choose a Journal. Choosing a journal sounds simple but there are many options available. There are gratitude journals that are just for this type of journaling. I prefer a traditional handwritten journal with lines. Sometimes I select a journal that corresponds with something going on in my life. Other times I may chose a religious one with bible verses written throughout. Sometimes I choose a fun journal, like my 34th journal I’m using now with adorable llamas all over the cover.

Computer Apps. Not only are there handwritten journals, there are awesome apps for starting and keeping a gratitude journal. Android & iOS

apps typically range from free to $4.99 but watch the free apps as some only allow so many entries and then charge for further use or charge for additional features or offer a premium app. Some apps charge a monthly fee. Will you journal on your smart phone, tablet, or desktop computer? Which would be more convenient? Before selecting your app, think about where you will be writing in it. I write in my journal at night in bed.

Schedule Gratitude. Decide how many gratuities you want to write each day and when you’ll actually write them down. I write one blessing each day. The most common number seems to be three, but I’ve seen as high as ten. Most people write every day, but I read several comments that writing every day causes burnout. Writing once or twice a week is more doable long-term. Try to be flexible with yourself. Don’t give up if you miss occasionally because you aren’t in the mood as this practice can help change your mood.

Challenge Yourself. If you find yourself writing the same gratitude over and over like your home, job, spouse or children, try to notice more subtle things. What do you appreciate about your spouse or children? What do you like about your home or job? You can find countless gratitude prompts on the internet. Here are 5 prompts you may find helpful if you get stuck.

  1. “What abilities do I have that I’m grateful for?
  2. What experiences have I had that I am grateful for?
  3. What have others in my life done that I am thankful for?
  4. What am I taking for granted that, if I stop to think about it, I am grateful for?
  5. What is different today than it was a year ago that I’m thankful for?”4

Go for depth over breadth, says author Jason Marsh. “Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.”2

Gratitude to Others. Elizabeth Scott, stress management expert, reminds us that we don’t have to save our gratitude just for our journal. “Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them. From people in your family to salesclerks and postal employees you encounter in your day, everyone likes to know that they’re appreciated. And their positive reactions can help put you in a positive mood, too.”5

Recently I told the postal delivery man thanks for delivering the mail every day. His response surprised me and made me smile. “I enjoy it so much I don’t even think of it as a job.” Who can you express gratitude to and for what?

The COVID-19 pandemic is frightening and upsetting; a gratitude journal may be just what you need to help not only see the meaning of the events around you but create meaning in your own life. What are you grateful for today?



  1. 15 Self Care Ideas for Coronavirus Quarantine
  1. Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal, Jason Marsh, November 17, 2011,…/tips_for_keepi…
  2. Eight Life Changing Benefits of Gratitude, Marelisa Fabrega,
  3. 17 gratitude-prompting questions for your Gratitude Journal, Curt Rosengren, January 4, 2013, com › Energize your life
  4. How to Maintain a Gratitude Journal for Stress Relief, Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,


Image: Gratitude Journal []

Stay Calm & Step Away During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the onslaught of COVID-19 information it is easy to become worried and anxious. Some states are ending their stay-at-home orders while others are holding on. Here are a few tips on staying calm and stepping away during the pandemic.

Try to be a source of calm for your loved ones.1 It isn’t easy with the pandemic fear but the calmer you are in front of your loved ones, the better. Children especially are looking at trusted adults for their cues during this challenging time.

Feeling Thermometer. Dr. Aureen-Wagner  from The Anxiety Wellness Center has created a complementary Feeling Thermometer to download for assessing how you are feeling in the current moment. My scores seem to fall in the 4 to 7 range. My husband was fired eight weeks ago due to COVID-19 so that hangs heavy on my heart and makes some days more difficult. What’s your score today? It’s good to check your score every few days as circumstances change.

Limit Your COVID-19 Coverage Intake

Is it a Trusted Source? Geisinger Health & Wellness says, “There is no shortage of COVID-19 coverage to consume, and it changes moment by moment. Instead of constantly refreshing your social media feeds or staying glued to news coverage,  seek reliable information from trusted sources, you’ll feel well-informed and less anxious.”2

At first, it seemed that I was watching hours of news which resulted in worry and fear. Eventually, I chose one station and time of day to watch the news. I don’t have to compare multiple points of view but get the news consistently. That has worked much better for me. What about your consumption of the pandemic news?

Taking Breaks. “Taking breaks from the news helps distance yourself, even a little, from what’s going on and avoid getting overwhelmed.”2  Instead of keeping the news on constantly, spend time doing another activity. This will remove yourself from the bombardment of news that can be hard to dodge.

Effects of Screen Time. While we need to stay informed to keep ourselves and others safe, we need breaks from screen time. “Time spent with screens can cause us to feel dysregulated, anxious, and depressed.”3

Limit your Social Media

“Whether it’s the news, social media, or emails, stop consuming excessive content that adds to your fear, stress, and anxiety. There’s a fine line between staying informed and giving in to the ego that loves drama.”4

Effects of Social Media. “Take care of yourself by unplugging from the smart world; say goodbye to brain fatigue, eye strain, neck pain, disrupted sleep and loss of attention.”5

Finally, stay calm for your loved ones. Step back from the news and social media. Put your phone away for periods of time. “Create a calm and peaceful head-space where you’re not pulled into the craze and panic.”4


  1. Self Care during COVID-19.
  2. Make time for self-care during a self-quarantine, Published Mar. 18, 2020

3.   A Self-Care Alphabet for Week 4 of Quarantine, Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D., Posted Apr 10, 2020

  1. 10 Different Ways to Practice Self-Care, Emily Ferguson, February 24, 2020,
  2. 15 Self Care Ideas for Coronavirus Quarantine