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MissAgnes 04-01-2019 02:05 PM

Combating self-defeating talk/behavior
I have a student who is constantly talking negatively about himself. He's a very needy student who wants almost constant attention from everyone around him.
In an effort to help him curb disruptive behaviors (blurting, interrupting, etc.) he was given a behavior chart to earn the reward of a game group at the end of the day.
He has to earn 45 points out of a possible 54 to earn his reward.
However, if he doesn't get all 3's (highest rating) in one class, he'll tear up the chart and throw it away. This morning, the specials teacher didn't fill out the chart, so the student threw away the chart. He had 4 more classes after that, and he could have easily earned the points.
He also constantly complains that work is too hard (he's near the top of the class), he doesn't "get it" (before he even tries), he's going to get it all wrong anyway, so why should he bother, etc.
This kind of stuff drives me nuts, because I know (in his case), it's simply attention-seeking. It's frustrating to me.

hand 04-01-2019 02:37 PM

I’m not sure of the age of your student, however, I think that it is too long to wait for a reward. Can the day be broken into 4 parts? Or into 2 parts? Maybe smaller rewards, like a break or 10 minutes on the computer? He needs to achieve some success before he can make it the whole day.

EMO109 04-01-2019 02:44 PM

A possibility for the behavior chart - I had a student similar to this, so I changed his plan and added in a few levels of rewards for varying point totals. Instead of earning or not earning a reward as an all or nothing deal, he kept a running total of points and he could spend his points on any “affordable” reward or save them up for something bigger. I made sure that the smallest reward was a point total that he could always earn, so he never felt he failed and he always knew that he would add more points the next day and never lost the ones he earned.

MaineSub 04-02-2019 04:20 AM

Warning: I am not a big fan of behavior charts, in part for exactly the reason given--it's still extrinsic motivation and has (in my opinion) limited long term (which is relative) effectiveness.

My bet would be that much of behavior is habit and to some degree a coping strategy. Of course the big unknown is what he's coping with... it's tempting to start guessing on where the need for attention is rooted but even that doesn't solve the problem. I think it's interesting that he claims the work is too hard while he's near the top of the class.

I'd agree that rewarding some immediate, short term successes are going to be important. The challenge will be figuring out what he thinks success is about. It would appear that getting 45 out of 54 points isn't success--avoiding the work is. I don't have any magic fix. I would chip away at him, though, perhaps starting with changing his self-talk. I don't know how old he is, but one thing I've done with kids is point out that they should not say, "I'm sad." Instead say, "I feel sad." It's easier to change how we feel than it is to change our identity.

I'd also be asking him questions like, "What's the best thing that... (happened today, etc.)?" and redirecting and challenging his thinking. "Where is it written that you're going to get it wrong?" "Okay, if you don't get it, what do you get?" Depending on his age and maturity, I might even suggest he create his own "behavior chart." I want to get him thinking about what he CAN do.

Underneath all this is the reality that you can't really change attitudes but you might be able to change behaviors and those behavior changes may in time affect attitudes. It is frustrating because it's a darn slow process. An additional challenge is to make sure we're not unintentionally rewarding the behaviors we are trying to change or extinguish.

It is frustrating.

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