Behavior Specialist

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My desk will stay clean! I am tired of piles of papers everywhere! In the upper left corner of my desk is the pile that I will get to eventually. The bottom left pile has papers I need to deal with now. Papers on the right corner are there because I need to look at them from time to time. Papers on the counter behind me need to be handed out to students. Do these piles sound familiar to you? I spend so much time looking through the piles for that one form. I do that over and over.

I am through wasting my time and getting frustrated with my desk mess!

I scoured Pinterest for organization ideas. Oh how did I function before Pinterest?! I found WHY & HOW TO MAKE A TICKLER FILE  It’s a file system to help remind you of things you need to do. Let me show you how I am using it at work and at home.

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In my closest file draw at my desk, I have 12 files (the red, yellow, blue ones) labeled with January, February, March, April, etc. and 31 manila files labeled 1, 2, 3, 4…31. These 31 files represent each day of the month. That’s it!


I file EVERY SINGLE PAPER on my desk in this system. I either file or trash papers that do not fit in this system. As you can see in the picture, the day I took the photo was July 20. I checked the #20 file, completed the required tasks and moved the #20 file folder to the back. I’m done with that file for the month. It’s empty. If I had a paper/task/form in the #20 file that I could not complete, but would be able to tomorrow, I would put the paper in #21 file.

When I have papers that I do not need to address until mid August, I put the paper in the August folder. When August 1 arrives, I will sort all papers in the August file into the #1-#31 files.

Sooooo easy! It takes just seconds to pull out the day’s file to start tackling the day’s work. I love the feeling of accomplishment and MY DESK IS CLEAN! If I’m working on a task, but do not finish, it goes in tomorrow’s file. Desk clean!

Because the Tickler File has been successful for me the past 3 months at school, I wanted to try a similar system at home. I hated how the mail seemed to just grow and grow. My husband and I would throw the mail on the counter of the antique hutch. The counter quickly filled up. So the mail started to collect on the closest counter. When that spot filled up, we moved to the counter where we prep food. I hated having to move the papers and mail in order to prepare dinner! Did we clean up our piles? NO! We moved it to the dining room table! Grrrr!

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I adjusted the Tickler File to fit our needs at home. I had a file for each month of the year but did not think we needed a file for each day of the month. So I used 2 files: one for days 1-15 and one for 16-31. This is working for us!


I also added some extra files. I determined these extra files by what papers still needed a home when I went through all our mail. These extra files are:

  • To File-anything that needs to go in our file cabinet (there are Pinterest ideas for organizing your home filing system…did it…am thrilled!) such as investments, insurance forms, car repair receipts, etc.
  • Mail Supplies-stamps, a few envelopes, return address labels
  • Entertainment-we get flyers for the season’s productions for a couple of community theatres. We want to keep those handy.
  • Coupons (this file is hiding in the picture)-we are not serious coupon users. When we get coupons in the mail, they used to hang on the fridge or sit on the counter. Now they go into this file. Honestly, they usually stay in this file until they are out of date…sigh…. I admire folks who are good coupon shoppers.

My counters have been MAIL FREE for over a month now! That is a miracle!

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These files at home are organized in a FOLD N’ FILE from THIRTY-ONE. One FOLD N’ FILE has my Tickler File. The other FOLD N’ FILE holds sunglasses, cameras, etc. Notice the clean counter!


I love being organized with systems that are easy to maintain, effective, and save me time!

Analyzing Office Referral Data


WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER! I certainly agree with that! When I worked as a behavior consultant, I spent hours and hours compiling office referral data. Our district wanted to analyze the data to look for trends. Thanks to my terrific sister, I was introduced to Excel Pivot Tables.


Yes, you can call me a nerd/data geek/whatever! I love analyzing data and Excel Pivot Tables feed that obsession!

Imagine having a tool that will let you enter new data, and with the click of a button, all graphs are instantly updated to include the new data. After I learned how to make the Excel Pivot Table work for office referral data, each month I was able to add the new data, click Refresh and was ready to send the new data to the schools for analysis.

One school had a lot of fighting going on. No one knew why. With Excel Pivot Tables, we were able to determine that the fights were occurring near the boys bathroom in the science wing after lunch. The school increased supervision in that location after lunch. Students were better supervised and not allowed to loiter. Fights stopped. Now that’s WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

Another school’s office referrals noted disturbances on the playground. After closer analysis, the conflicts happened the last 10 minutes of the 30 minute recess. We reduced recess to 20 minutes which significantly reduced playground conflicts. WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

When analyzing office referral data, a principal noticed the majority of the office referrals were coming from 3 teachers. The principal and assistant principal increased walk-throughs in those classrooms. They were able to help the teachers gain control with problem students. Office referrals decreased. YES! WORKING SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

When we anticipate problems, we can be proactive and prevent conflicts.

Analyzing the data:

NOTE: The pivot tables below have just 11 office referrals represented. It is just as easy to analyze 1000 or 3000 office referrals as it is to analyze 11.

The Student Chart shows how many office referrals each student received. You can use this information to form an At-Risk Team.














Click on the number next to the student who has the highest referrals.



The office referral appears for just Red Riding Hood! You now have the information you need to begin to make a plan for Red Riding Hood. You can share this information with parents, special education staff, school psychologists, etc.







Another way to use Excel Pivot Tables is to determine who sends students to the office most often. This gives an administrator information to consider if the teacher needs extra support.




I always like to see what infractions occur most often. You can compare the infractions month to month to determine trends of behavior. The infractions are coded: ct1-class tardy 1st time; dis=disruption; dru=drugs; fi=fight; out=out of assigned area; etc. You can create your own codes, use the ones your internet tracking program provides or use the ones I’ve developed. The most important thought is to enter the data consistently.  For example, if I enter “fight” for two students fighting one time and then enter “student fight” another time, Excel will identify these as two different types of infractions when they are really one. So be consistent with documentation.











Other types of data collected and analyzed include: infractions per month; infractions by gender; location of infraction; time of infraction; type of consequences used. As you get more comfortable and familiar with Excel Pivot Tables, you can add more areas to analyze. Analysis is endless. If you are like me, you will be so engrossed in the data you’ll wonder how the day flew by.

If you have Excel and the Internet, you can figure this out. Check out the videos on You Tube.

You do not have to be an Excel Pivot Table Pro to use this. If you want the data/tracking but don’t want to create it yourself, I’ve made one for you with step by step directions. You may find it well worth the $7 price tag to save yourself the time, energy and effort of learing how to make a pivot table. Just download the one I’ve already created-OFFICE REFERRAL DATA ANALYSIS. It’s ready to use. Remember, WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

BAGGAGE: We all have it!

Smile Chart

My 20 year-old son is spending the spring semester in Spain. We are all excited and looking forward to his adventures. Apparently traveling in Europe is inexpensive as long as one does not check any baggage. So he (and I) completely stressed on how he was to pack in one backpack for a 4-month stay. Well he did! So the adventure is on…

Those are baggage issues we all prefer.

However, many of our students must deal with a different kind of baggage. Our student may bring home, family, friend issues into school each morning. It’s frustrating for us because we are ready to focus on reading and math. However, our student may still be dealing with home issues from last night or this morning. If we ignore the student’s issues, s/he may melt down and act out. No learning occurs.

I developed a simple way the classroom teacher or instructional assistant can help guide a young child through the previous night’s distractions. The SMILE CHART lets the child pick a smiley/straight/sad/angry face on how she felt the previous evening. Next you ask how she felt at bed time. The child picks a face. You can make notes on the sheet about what the child is saying. You also discuss how the child felt in the morning. As the child is picking a face to show how she felt, take this opportunity to empathize and trouble shoot the issue. The last question is how that child is feeling right now. Hopefully this process has helped her put the distractions to rest so she can move on with her day.

If needed, this SMILE CHART can also be used as anecdotal notes to share with the school counselor or community resources. I hope you find this Smile Chart as helpful with your students as I did with mine.

The Secret to Excellent Classroom Management…



As a principal of an alternative school, I work with middle and high school students who have been caught with drugs, who have out-of-control behavior, or have mental health issues. I’m often asked how I “control” the students. I’m asked what consequences I use. I’m asked how we MAKE them behave.

Well, I do none of those things!

I take the time to get to know each student. I want to know favorite hobbies/sports/friends. We talk football, hunting, movies, (I cannot talk music…clueless) etc. I share stories about my family. We play games (designed to improve brain processing) and laugh and laugh.


Each student should be heard! S/he has something positive to offer. Adults just need to take time to listen or help the student find it. The other day one of my new students thanked the staff for what we do. He said, “You really do care about us!”  You’ve heard the saying, “A student needs to know how much you care before he cares how much you know.” Once I establish a good relationship, the student is going to be receptive to my requests for improved behavior.


Below, Randy Sprick has a simple outline on how to positive interact with students:

Interact positively with students. This involves three different skills.

A. Interact in a welcoming manner with every student.

  • Say hello, use students’ names
  • Show an interest in students—listen, converse.

B. Provide age appropriate, non-embarrassing positive feedback.

C. Strive to interact more frequently with every student when s/he is engaged in positive behavior than when s/he is engaged in negative behavior.

  • Some students are starved for attention.
  • What you pay the most attention to is what will occur more frequently in the future.
  • Strive for at least 3:1 positive to negative ratios.

Designing Positive School-Wide Discipline Plans

Randy Sprick, Ph.D


One of the ways I pay attention to appropriate/positive behavior is by rewarding students with Positive Reinforcement Coupons. Even middle and high school students love the rewards. Here are few examples of the coupons:

iPod coupon

no homework coupon

dismiss first couponjoke coupon








I made coupons that can be printed in black and white (saves $$$).coupons b&w










coupons on color paper
The coupons can be printed or copied on colorful paper for middle and high school students. Yes, these are the same coupons above…just printed on colorful paper! This method lets the student write his name on the back in case it gets misplaced.

There are also some very cute coupons designed for elementary students. Students can take the coupon home to show their parents.




coupons color


I also made colorful coupons that can be laminated and reused for middle and high school students. Although it does cost more initially, the long-term cost is minimal because the coupons are reused.






 The most important thing is pay attention to the student when s/he is being good!

Effective Office Referral Forms


Welcome back. Last month I showed you how I level behaviors. I used these levels to develop office referral forms. It is important to have a well-developed office referral system. A well-developed system allows you to easily organize and analyze behavior. Before you can change behavior, you have to analyze it so you can understand what is happening.

For example, I worked with a school that would inconsistently labeled fights as “school fight”, “fighting”, “student fight”, “students fighting”, etc. No software will accurately sort this information. The only way we could get an accurate count of how many fights were in school was to manually count them. HUGE TIME DRAIN! Once we cleaned this up, we discovered the bulk of the fights were happening in the boys’ bathroom after lunch. We quickly changed bathroom procedures and supervision to eliminate that problem.

Here are three sample forms for Office Referrals:

ORF second

The first has an emphasis for the FUNCTION of the student’s behavior. Notice the question:

What is the function of the behavior?



Remember, all behavior has a function. It is to avoid something or obtain something. In order to change a student’s behavior, you have to understand the function. See my post Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment.



All three samples have check boxes for Staff Member Interventions. This is to remind staff that many strategies exist before an office referral (note: all Level 3 behaviors are immediate referrals). If a student has a behavior plan, it should be noted (and reviewed). The Administrative Actions is a list of consequences ranging from less severe to most severe.

ORF detenThe next Office Referral form was used in a middle school that wanted it in triplet form to use as detention notice.









ORF 1The last sample form is for a secondary school. Teachers wanted a place to write a comment.








These forms are available in Word and are editable. You can personalize it for your school. By taking the time to clean up what behaviors go to the office and using consistent office referral form, you will be able to analyze behaviors. This fall, I will show you how to analyze behaviors using an Excel Pivot Table. It’s worth the wait….



When I was Behavior Consultant in my school district, one of my duties was to review the office referral data in all the schools. I noticed the administrators were overwhelmed with the number of students being sent to the office for disciplinary reasons. In one school, students were sent to the office for chewing gum or not having a pencil in class!

Goodness! I was amazed that the administrator had to deal will all kinds of behavior…chewing gum, having no pencil, horseplaying, name calling, bullying, cussing, fighting, etc. Because he had such high numbers of students to discipline, he spent approximately 2 minutes per student. He was simply reacting to the issues as he did not have time to effectively change behavior. This administrator had no time to help with curriculum or any other school issue. He managed student behavior ALL DAY! YUCK!

Following best practice and guidelines of Positive Behavior Instructional Support, Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline and other proactive experts, I developed Levels of Behavior for our district.

Level 1 behaviors are minor behaviors that the teacher can handle in class. If a student is chewing gum, have him spit it out if it is against your school’s policy. Better yet, let him chew the gum. Chewing gum helps some students focus. If a student doesn’t have her materials, the teacher can loan her a pencil. Other minor Level 1 behaviors include: cheating, running in the hall, talking in class, off task, etc.

Let’s jump to Level III behaviors. They are severe behaviors. Level III behaviors are illegal acts, physically dangerous acts, or severe acts of defiance. Level III behaviors include: alcohol, drugs, vandalism, fighting, inciting violence, etc. The administrator is immediately involved. Often the School Resource Officer must also be involved. If the behavior is illegal, court involvement may follow.

Level II behaviors are the moderate behaviors. Office Referral paperwork is entered for future data analysis. The administrator talking directly with the child is optional. Whether or not the child sees the principal depends on the behavior. A third tardy may automatically have the consequence without the involvement of the principal. On the other hand, a student with an office referral for harassment/teasing/threatening should definitely speak to the principal.

By understanding the different levels of behavior, staff is better prepared to manage behavior. The administrator will now have the time to address Level II and Level III behaviors. The administrator can work with the student who has been disrLevels of Behaviorespectful to a teacher and who may have underlying issues which are causing stress. The administrator will also have time to work on long range goals for school improvement.

My Levels of Behavior can be downloaded for free. Use it to develop your own levels. Stop by next month, I’ll show you how to turn the levels of behavior into an office referral form.

Anger Outbursts


Does it seem like your student explodes instantly?

Actually there are many signs before an explosion. This handout, The Cycle of Anger, will help you and the student recognize these signs in order to avoid the explosion.

Cycle of anger



Step 1: High Risk Situations-this identifies what was going on and where the student was when the problem started. By analyzing this data, you may notice a student always has a problem in a specific activity (math, PE, free time, etc.) or in a certain location (bathroom, hallway, music class, etc.).

Step 2: The Trigger-what happened that triggered a student? What set him off? It could be as simple as the teacher giving a direction or another student making a face.

Step 3: How are you feeling? The student’s body is giving him signals. At first, it will be difficult for the student to recognize these signals. You need to pay attention and help him identify what his body is doing. It may be increased breathing, increased heart rate, tightening of the jaw, tapping fingers on desk, etc.

Step 4: EXIT-this the first opportunity to get off the cycle of anger. What can the student do to avoid blowing up? The de-escalation strategies listed here should be want works for this student. Don’t just make a generic list. What specifically will work for this one student?

Step 5: How are you feeling now? This is similar to step 3. It’s recognizing body signals. The signals may be huffing and puffing breaths, slumped body in chair or rigid body, grumbling, etc.

Step 6: EXIT-the student has another opportunity to get off the cycle of anger. Again, what can the student do to avoid blowing up? He may need to take a walk, take a time out, etc.

Step 7: Harmful Behavior. This is what happens when the student does not use an exit behavior and get off the cycle of anger. It’s an unacceptable behavior. It may be talking back, slamming a book, fighting or threatening others. The harmful behavior will following with discipline.

Step 8: How can you avoid the problem next time? This is the whole reason for processing behavior. Step 8 should connect to Step 1. You want to encourage the student to avoid high risk situations.

Once I had a 4th grader who would yell, knock over chairs and desks. In the heat of the moment, I could only hope to contain the student to keep everyone safe. After he calmed, we reviewed what happened. We used the Cycle of Anger to help process what happened. We discovered his body was giving him signals…he squinted his eyes and squeezed his lips tightly when getting angry. We finished the worksheet and he had a consequence for his outburst. Days later, he started to get angry…his eyes squinted, his lips squeezed in a line. Because we had analyzed his behavior and body signals earlier, I was able to point out what his body was telling him. I let him know that this is the time to make good decisions (take 10 deep breaths, etc). He was surprised and was able to stop his explosion.  This was a wonderful breakthrough; it was the first time he changed his behavior! We praised him and he was happy. Several days later, he again was getting angry. When he squinted his eyes and squeezed his lips, he gasped when he recognized what his body was telling him! He was able to change his behavior on his own!!! He had very few disruptions after understanding his outbursts and being able to control them.

Just the other day, a young lady in high school used the Cycle of Anger after just one introduction to it. It was her first day our program. I reviewed the Cycle of Anger and explained part of the program is understanding behavior in order to control it. Later that day, she was irritated by a boy in class. She told me she remembered the Cycle of Anger and instead of “going off”, she closed her eyes and took slow calming breaths. Now THAT’S excellent control!




IMPORTANT:  In order for time out to work, you must first understand the function of the student’s behavior. If his behavior is to avoid work, then time out is giving him what he wants. Make sure he has the skill to perform the task and try to motivate the student.

  • The location of your time out should be in an area you can easily supervise and is not in view of other students. Some students are embarrassed and need privacy to recover. Some will enjoy disrupting others and try to create a power and control battle with you. I always made my time out spot with a sturdy shelf (would not turn over) against a wall with room for a beanbag, or file cabinet and beanbag, or 3-sided wall partition and a bean bag. This is NOT an isolated time out room. There are specific laws about isolation rooms and, frankly, I don’t believe they belong in school.


  • My rules were:
    • I don’t hear you.
    • I don’t see you (means student stays in time out spot).
    • Time out is 2 minutes.

These rules are unusual in that they are negative and go against the “dead man rule” (if a dead man can do it, it’s not a good rule). However, I did not care if the student was rolling on the floor, hiding under the beanbag (happened often), was trying to stand on his head, or was lying on his back with feet in the air. I did not want to engage in a power struggle on how to sit in time out. I just want him to stay in the time out spot and to be quiet in order to not disrupt the rest of the class. That’s all. The general rule for minutes in time out is 1 minute per age of the child. I found two minutes was usually enough. If a child was calm and compliant in two minutes, why wait another 6 minutes just because he was 8 years old? If a child was not compliant in two minutes, I waited until he was compliant. Sometimes that would take several minutes, but I would check on him every two minutes. It sounds time consuming but it is not. Takes seconds.


  • On a desk or shelf outside the time out spot is a basket with Time Out Notes and pencils.

    Time out note


  • When the child is ready to follow directions, he steps out to get one Time Out Note and a pencil. He goes back into the time out area to fill out the note. The first line, “I chose time out when,” helps the child understand he had a choice and it was his behavior that led to time out. The next line, “next time I will,” helps him choose a replacement behavior. The next line, “I need to apologize to,” helps the child understand his behavior affected someone else and he needs to correct that. Some adults feel a child should only apologize if the apology is sincere. I think it is good practice to apologize whether it’s sincere or not. When a student is still agitated, he may yell out for help or complain he doesn’t understand the Time Out Note. This is another sign he is not yet compliant. Calmly tell him you will help when he is in time out quietly for 2 minutes.


  • The student does not choose when to come out of time out. The teacher invites the student to return by giving the student a request, “Sam, come talk to me, please.” DO NOT ASK “Are you ready to follow directions?” or “Are you ready to come out of time out?” Some of your toughest kids will be ready to come out of time out but are not ready to be compliant. When I request a student to come talk to me, I am observing if he is being resistant or compliant. I often will also give a quick request as he is walking towards me (“Please push in that chair”, “Please bring me that book,” “Please throw that paper in the garbage”). This is to give the student practice following my directions. I can immediately assess if he is going to be complaint by doing that. If he is not compliant, I simply tell him it seems he is not ready and send him back to time out. Sometimes you will have a student who refuses to come out of time out. That’s ok. He’s just trying to get in a power struggle. Don’t play. Just tell him you will check on him in a couple of minutes…then ignore him. He eventually will get tired of being in time out and will be willing to be compliant.


  • After you and the child quickly review the Time Out Note together, politely tell the child what he needs to do to get back engaged in class. For example, “Joe, after you apologize to Bob, join the blue group for this science project.” You want to make sure you help the student be successful.


  • Some students need time out often. That’s ok. Four 2-minute time outs are better learning experiences than one 20-minute time out. I remember when I sent a student to time out for the fifth time, he yelled, “I’m sick of time out!” I calmly responded, “Then simply follow directions.” That was his last visit to time out.


  • There is absolutely no justification for a teacher to be angry when putting a student in time out. Nor should a teacher feel like she “got him”. Time out is not a matter of the teacher winning and the student losing. If you have these feelings, you are misusing time out. Time out is an absence of reinforcement. It is an opportunity for the student to recover and change his behavior. So, when a student returns to the class, he has a clean slate.



Line Up AND Learn Some Math!

luanne_general[1]“SHE CUT ME!”

I heard that a number of times when students were lining up in my classroom. One of the worst possible crimes in elementary school is when a student cuts in line! Oh my! Other crimes while lining up were pushing, crowding, elbowing, complaining, name calling, etc.

It is tough to get 25 young children to line up quickly and peacefully. Soooo I developed the Stand-On Footprints to help students line up.



The footprints give a specific spot to put feet. While standing, there are many math skills available for incidental learning. The top left corner has the numeral and the number word in English. The top right corner has the numeral and the number word in Spanish. Between the feet are the ordinal number and ordinal number word in English. Below the ordinal number word is the number in Roman Numerals. At the bottom of the page is the number represented in dots. The Stand-On Footprints also have a color pattern: blue, green, blue, green….  Whew, this one piece of paper is full of math concepts!

I taught ordinal numbers using the stand-on prints. “Bob, stand in 4th place. Sue, stand in 8th place, etc.” While waiting in line, my students kept busy looking at the numerals below, number words, and counting dots. It simplified lining up AND my students learned additional math skills in the process.

If you have a class that needs high structure, give each student an assigned number. Students will not have to jostle around to find a spot. You can spend less time directing and correcting students and spend more time reinforcing positive behavior and teaching math concepts.

Simply print out Stand-On Footprints on a color printer, laminate, and tape to the floor. There are many different types of decorative duct tape available at your local home store. I find sticking the tape to your clothing before sticking to the floor lets you remove the tape without leaving residue. Decorate your floor, improve your students’ math skills and reduce conflicts in line with Stand-On Footprints!



Weeelll…I’m going to cause a stir…I’m just going to say it…I do not think the flip card (color card) system for classroom management works! There! I said it! Classroom teachers, stay with me…

Here are the systems I’ve seen: Each student has 5 colors in order (often blue, green, yellow, orange, and red) in a pouch with his name. When he misbehaves, the teacher tells the student to flip a card. When the card gets to red, it’s a trip to the principal and a call home. Another system I heard about had rainbows, sun, raindrops, storm clouds, and even lightning bolts. Whew! Some teachers attach rewards/consequences to the various colors…trip to the treasure box if you stay on blue, walk at recess if you are on orange, etc.

Now for the huge majority of students, the flip card system works. However…and here is the problem…it does not work for the student with chronic misbehavior. You can add the whole range of ROY G BIV and it still won’t work. I know. I’ve tried it. I have tried multiple ways to make the teacher’s current flip card system work for the student with chronic misbehavior. It was frustrating, and a huge waste of time. Also, for the majority of students, a simple redirection is all that needed. The leveled system, such as the flip cards, is not necessary. So why use a system that doesn’t work with students that have the toughest behaviors and the other students don’t need?

Let me introduce you to Thomas Phelan’s 1,2,3 Magic! I absolutely love it! It is a behavior management system designed for children 2-12 years of age. By the way, I am NOT affiliated with this company. I get nothing from them. I just absolutely think it is the best system I have ever used, and I want to share it with you!

I have used 1,2,3 Magic with my self-contained elementary students with severe behavior. I’ve used it with my resource students who have learning disabilities. I’ve help regular elementary teachers implement it in their classrooms very successfully. I’ve used it with my three children! I even used it with a 14 year old with the maturity level of a 12 year old to teach him to stop talking back—it worked!

I was watching the 1,2,3 Magic video to refresh my memory with my teenage daughter. She said, “I hate that!” I was shocked and asked why. She replied, “Because when you said ‘That’s one’, I knew you meant it and I HAD to follow directions.” She was correct. When I followed the guidelines of 1,2,3 Magic, I did mean it.

The system sounds simple, but you must fully understand the potential pitfalls in order to implement it well. When the child is doing something you want him to stop, look at him and calmly say, “That’s one.” You continue teaching/washing dishes. You are giving the child the opportunity to comply. If you stare at him, the child may perceive that as a challenge and misbehave more. If he stops, you may thank him. If he continues to act out, calmly say, “That’s two.” Again, give him the opportunity to comply. If he continues, say, “That’s three. Time out.” Dr. Phelan says, “That’s three. Take five (minutes of time out).”

The absolutely hardest part of this system is getting the ADULT to STOP TALKING! You cannot say, “See I told you if you continued, I’d count” or “I’ll count again if you don’t stop running around” or “2 and a half, 2 and three quarters….” When I found myself too emotional or too talkative, I stopped immediately and tried to remember the rules Dr. Phelan outlined.

One time, I was talking with a contractor in my house and my 9 year old daughter was being a bit of a nuisance. After one minor disruption from her, I quickly looked at her and calmly said, “That’s one” and continued talking with the contractor. My daughter quieted immediately and after a few minutes wandered off to play. The contractor asked what that was. He knew something happened but could not figure it out. That is what I like about it. I did not embarrass my daughter. I did not engage her in a power struggle. I simply gave her an opportunity to behave. She did. My daughter is now working in day care and guess what system she is using? 1,2,3 Magic! Love it!

When I taught in the classroom, I had a designated spot for time out. It was often a beanbag on the floor behind a file cabinet or a 3-sided wall partition in the corner of the room. It was always where I could easily supervise but not visible to other students and away from distractions (manipulatives, window, doorway, etc). Outside the time out spot, I had Time Out Notes. This was a way to keep data on who was in time out, when and how long. It was also a learning tool for the child. When the child felt he was ready to follow directions, he stepped out to get the Time Out Note and a pencil (of course, I noticed when he did this). I would request the student to come talk to me. The Time Out Note was the basis for our 2 minute conversation on the misbehavior. I filed the note for future data use.

When people say time out doesn’t work, it’s usually adult misuse that causes its failure. Check out 1,2,3 Magic (I now give it as a baby shower gift!) and Time Out Note.