Category Archives: behavior management

Teaching kids to get better at getting along

You’ve got two kids who disagree and fight constantly…

Yet they seem attracted to each other like magnets…

You’ve talked to them

You’ve threatened them

You’ve separated them… repeatedly.

What’s the answer?

We’ve all been in this situation before as educators and parents; two kids who just can’t get along but who somehow manage to always wind up together and arguing no matter what you do.  I recently responded to a question much like this on the ASCA forum from a school counselor who was at her wits end with a similar situation.  Here was my answer:

Helping Kids Learn to Get Along

I’m going to suggest something that is probably counter intuitive and outside the box. However, I have found that when you try to enforce a separation strategy,  that it takes a great deal of energy since the students challenge the boundaries at every possible chance. It is much like trying to fight the resistance of two magnets.  There is a better strategy.  Yes, it involves a good bit of time but it is all designed to not only prevent future disagreements, but teach the kids involved how to handle any disagreement in the future. Clearly they need that kind of training.  Plus… you are spending a ton of time trying to keep them apart and putting out fires anyway. Why not invest the time in teaching new skills?

Here’s the plan:

Re-frame the problem as two friends who want to enjoy each other but don’t know how to resolve conflicts.  I would perhaps use the analogy of two carpenters who are trying to build something but who show up for the job with the wrong tools.  They need a hammer and nails and instead they brought a chain saw and a screwdriver so what they try to build results in a lot of frustration.  You are going to teach them the right tools for building a friendship.

Begin with a commitment from each of them to do the work necessary to improve their friendship.  Then back track with them to their latest incident.  What started the conflict?  Who said and did what?  Write it down as though it was a role-play… you could even have them act it out while you write it down, stopping them after each statement. (Pausing should keep emotions low).

Create a list of conflict rules:  No name calling.  No blaming. No yelling.  Think before you speak.  Treat others as you would like to be treated… etc.

Develop a new dialogue: Now working with the students at each point in the latest conflict, have them suggest what they could have said that would have followed the rules and built rather than damaged the relationship.  Have them act it out and describe how they feel at the end.

Anticipate the future: Have the students brainstorm situations that could create problems again.  Review things they can say and do to prevent problems.  Have them practice and role-play the situations so they are prepared.

Follow up:  Check back on a regular basis to mediate any problems, reinforce what they have learned and encourage them to continue good practices.  Review the rules and repeat the  role-playing of situations as necessary until they learn better habits and strategies. Congratulate them on taking the time to learn to be great friends.  Once they are successful ask them to help others who are having friendship conflicts and teach them what they have learned.

Related Posts:

five ways to turn sibling rivalry around

taking the drama out of conflict

what to do when kids argue

 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners


End of School Year Special

Ends June 9th!

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 


Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)


do you teach rules or values?

Do you feel like you are constantly correcting your child?

Do you feel that you are redirecting and repeating behavior rules all the time?

Guess what? You probably are.  In fact, research shows that from ages two to ten children are urged by their parents to change their behavior once every six to nine minutes… 50 discipline encounters a day or over 15,000 a year!  No wonder you are so tired.  School isn’t even out yet… and you are counting the days until the summer is over.

So how can you make sure that all that correcting is effective anyway?

Two discipline options

The same research shows that there are a couple of ways parents can chose to correct a child.  One is using reasoning or a rational approach.  It often involves identifying a rule and why it is wrong. For instance:  The rule is no hitting and hitting your sister is wrong because it hurts people.

Another option is to have fewer rules but focus those rules around values. The golden rule is a good example:  The rule is treat others as you would want to be treated. So, I know you don’t like someone to hit you, do you?  How does it make you feel?  How would your sister feel if you hit her?

You may wonder what difference it makes. Aren’t rules… just rules? According to the research, it can make a lot of difference. The second option creates adults who are able to demonstrate, even in difficult situations where there is pressure to follow a crowd mentality, that they can behave in ways that demonstrate positive character values. So teaching positive values such as integrity, honesty, perseverance, or compassion trumps simple rules every time.

Related Posts:

The power of not yet in changing behavior

How do you create better behavior?

One phrase can change entitlement mindset



End of School Year Special

Get all 7 Wyatt story books:

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

Wyatt Learns about Winning

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt Learns about Friendship 

Wyatt Learns about Good Manners 


Wyatt’s Book of Lesson Plans, Activities and Games

A $110 value for $95 (includes shipping)


 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.


Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners


How effective is your school’s ISS?

Last week I was at a school doing some staff training on developing positive behavior systems based on understanding personality style.  I had a conversation with the principal about the role of ISS (in school suspension) and how effective it is as a deterrent to misbehavior. Most school personnel would agree that it is not very effective.  Sure it gets a child out of the classroom for a period of time and hopefully impresses the child with the fact that the behavior has consequences that are undesirable… but does it really teach a child how to behave differently?  So if it’s ineffective and difficult to staff (no one really wants this duty)… why don’t we do something else?

What if it were possible to use ISS time to teach better behavior skills?

Here are some ideas:

  • Create a worksheet that even the youngest child can complete about the behavior that landed them in ISS.  Use a comic strip layout with a box for each of the following questions:
    • What happened first?
    • What did I do?
    • What have I learned?
    • What do I plan to do in the future?
  • Young children can draw a picture in answer to the questions.  Older children can write about the experience.
  • The teacher in attendance reviews the sheet with the child.  This is a time for learning from mistakes, not a time for scolding for bad behavior.  Challenge perceptions and pat answers.  Encourage creative thinking and personal responsibility for feelings and actions.
  • Make the child a copy of the sheet for them to review later perhaps with their parents.  Keep a copy in the ISS room.  If the child is back in ISS for a similar behavior, have them complete a new worksheet, then compare it to the old one. Discuss what happened and why the old plan didn’t work.  How will the new plan make a difference?  What do they need to do differently?  How do they need to think differently?
  • Use a growth mindset and frame the entire experience as an opportunity to learn from mistakes rather than as a punishment to teach a child a lesson.
  • Before the child leaves, have them role play or act out how they will handle a similar situation in the future based on their answers on the worksheet.
  • Anticipate with the child what they will do when they encounter a similar situation again.  Frame it as a test of the plan that they have come up with.  Have them set an intention or a goal as to how they will handle it better.  Discuss how they will feel after they successfully handle the next challenge.
  • Rather than have children do busy work during any remaining ISS time,  have them read books on positive behavior.  For example, an excellent series on bullying is the Weird Series which has great suggestions for bullies, bystanders and victims of bullying.  Trudy Ludwig and Julia Cook write a number of books on improving behavior.  And of course, I also recommend the Wyatt the Wonder Dog books:)

Good behavior is often something we just expect that a child should understand.  After all, we told them the rules, right? Why can’t they just follow them?

What if we thought of behavior the same way that we think about math or reading?  We’d never give a child a book, explain briefly how words and sentences work together and expect them to pick it up and start reading.  We’d never tell a child how to add and subtract and expect that they could answer math problems right away.   Yet we expect that all children should understand and follow behavior rules.  Some children do manage to pick up how to behave without a lot of guidance just as some children seem to be born reading.  But most of us could benefit from some intentional teaching of behavior skills. By applying the growth mindset concept to behavior challenges, we can frame misbehavior as a chance to learn from mistakes and an opportunity develop better behavior skills.

Related posts:

How to create a better behavior plan

How do you change a child’s behavior?

Creating a growth mindset in kids


Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

How to Create a Plan for Better Behavior

I once was counseling the parents of a child who didn’t want to come to school.  After investigating the situation and making sure there wasn’t a bully at school who was intimidating him or a problem with academics that was discouraging him, we talked about setting up a reinforcement program where he could earn something for attending school without morning complaints and tantrums.  The parents were eager and cooperative. They wanted to get Johnny back in the school routine as quickly as possible. The next day I met with Johnny and asked about his new program.  He informed me that if he came to school as planned for the next few weeks, he would earn a vacation on a cruise ship over spring break with his parents.  Obviously, I had failed to clearly explain a reinforcement program and how to choose a reasonable and sensible reward…

In today’s affluent and savvy world of parenting, we are creating what Tim Elmore calls in a post the ‘encore problem’.  As parents we want to create better and better experiences for our children.  We want each year to be better than the next.  We want to wow them. Even when we are impacting a behavior with a behavior plan, we feel the need to create the ultimate reward. The problem?  We are setting the stage to continually up the anti and soon kids start expecting more and more.  If the reinforcement program that Johnny’s parents had designed had worked (and it didn’t-I’ll explain why in a moment), what were they going to do as an incentive for the weeks after spring break?  A trip to Europe? Spaceship to the moon?

Here’s what a behavior reinforcement program is designed to do and how to set up a successful one:

  • A behavior plan helps to clearly identify the behavior(s) that  is a problem and holds the child responsible. It does this by recognizing that the behaviors are a choice and the child is making a choice to cry, whine, not follow directions,  throw a tantrum etc. This seems basic but often behaviors are seen as almost involuntary by both the parent and the child if they have become an established routine.
  • A behavior plan clearly identifies the proper and expected behavior.  For example, in the school avoidance problem described above, we clearly identified how Johnny was expected to act in the morning by describing the best case scenario or a good morning routine.  Making a checklist or writing down the expectations is recommended so everyone is on the same page.
  • A behavior plan sets clear consequences for both expected and unexpected behavior.  The plan should be discussed and written down.  A positive reinforcement or reward should be reasonable and as close time-wise to the positive behavior as possible.  I often recommend earning extra time in the afternoon after school to do something the child enjoys. Improve the reward by involving the parent in the activity.  For example, parent and child could spend extra time outside playing basketball, they could enjoy a movie or video game together, read a book, cook together… really the possibilities are endless. Set a reasonable time limit for the activity of 30 minutes or so .  Make sure the reward is not something you do routinely anyway and then make sure you follow up. Notice that you don’t have to spend money or create an elaborate plan as a positive reinforcement.
  • What if the expected behavior doesn’t occur?  Again there should be a consequence as close to the behavior as possible.  In the school avoidance case mentioned above, it could be no video games or tv for the evening.  It could be no play time outside.  It could be extra time spent studying.  It could be an earlier bedtime.  The consequence should be delivered without lecturing.  There should however be a thorough review of the plan for the next day with an expectation that learning will have occurred through the mistakes made today.  Set the stage for and expect a positive experience in the future.
  • What can go wrong?
    • No follow through and lack of consistency–you have to adhere to the plan long enough for it to work.  How long is long enough?  Until it works. Seriously. That doesn’t mean you don’t review and revise it as needed.  But it also means that you don’t throw up your hands after the first few days if there isn’t a dramatic change in behavior.  It takes time to change behavior.  Think about the last time you tried to change your behavior and do something differently…
    • Creating an impossible or complicated plan— Offering a cruise for good behavior falls into this category.  If the behavior doesn’t occur are you going to cancel the family vacation?  Offering to spend all afternoon shopping with your child for toys if their behavior improves also falls into this category.  Create a plan that is easy to deliver, won’t break the bank and is going to enhance the relationship on many levels.
    • Depending on extrinsic rewards exclusively rather than fostering intrinsic rewards. A reinforcement program is not meant to last forever.  Ultimately the goal is to establish better behavior as a routine.  That is why rewards that encourage better behavior while also developing a closer relationship are ideal.  Continue to process the experience and encourage a learning and growth mindset.

Related Posts:

3 Steps to Helping Kids Develop Self-Discipline

Change Manic Mornings to Tranquil Transitions

Do Your Kids Push Your Buttons?


Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything.  Where is his backpack?  his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead.  This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Being Organized

Leadership Lessons for Kids Based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Successful People


Do your kids push your buttons?

Does it seem like your kids just naturally know how to push you buttons?
Do they know that nothing makes you more crazy than…
waiting until the last minute to do a project,
leaving toys out where you trip over them
begging you for candy while you are checking out a month’s worth of groceries,
or what ever your pet peeve is?

You can feel it coming… You get angry and frustrated…quickly.  It’s like someone lit the end of a trail of gunpowder, leading right up to a big explosion.

We’re hooked.

And the drama begins…

The good news: You have a choice.

  1. Stay in control–I know that’s the point right?  Your child is out of control though and as the adult you need to do what it takes to maintain your calm and control.  Take a deep breath.  Turn on your objective mind and re-frame the situation.  Remind your child of the boundaries and rules in a calm voice.  If necessary, take a break and come back when you are under control.
  2. Refrain from arguing and threatening–  These are techniques that escalate the drama rather than solve the problem. Besides, is “you’ll never come with me to the grocery store again!!”  a realistic option?   Your child knows it’s not… When it becomes a power struggle there is bound to be a battle to the end and you may not be the winner.  If you need to discuss the situation and review rules and consequences wait until you are both calmer.
  3. Set up a later time to review the problem,- Restate the rules and teach the appropriate behavior.  This is not the time to label a child as lazy, or irresponsible or bad or any of the other negative labels that are often applied.  Instead, frame this as a situation where he/she has not yet learned the necessary routine and skills.  Then just as you would if he brought home a failing grade in math, set aside some time to ‘tutor’ him in the appropriate behavior.

You can prevent being the drama mama, by planning ahead and recognizing your role in the dance.  Disconnect those buttons and create a proactive plan for dealing with out of control behavior.

Related posts:

5 tips for thriving with your strong willed child

It’s Mine!  Tackling the Sharing Dilemma

5 steps to keep your cool


While supplies last… end of the school year special!

Four of my best selling books:

Wyatt Learns about Cooperation, Wyatt Learns about Good Manners, Wyatt Learns about Winning and Wyatt Learns about Being Organized.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_KindleWyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About WinningWyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Front_Covr-Organized[1]

Plus Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Digital Cover New

Regularly: $60 Now: $50 (plus $5 postage)!


I only have a limited supply, so get these while they last:)

Five Ways to turn Sibling Rivalry Around


 In honor of National Siblings Day I am reposting this blog on Sibling Rivalry.

We can all probably remember the sibling rivalry that went on in our own families. As the oldest in my family, I certainly participated in plenty of bickering and arguing of my own.

Once you become a parent though, what you participated in as a kid quickly becomes one of the most infuriating things you have to deal with.  Unless of course you only have one child, in which case I guess the sibling your child argues with is you!

Turns out the conflict and arguments that are an inevitable part of siblings growing up together, are also great opportunities for children to learn interpersonal skills.  Here are five ways that you as a parent can ease the tension when children disagree and encourage cooperation and understanding.


  • Recognize each child’s different personality style and talents– Recognizing strengths and maximizing them is a great way to honor the individuality of each child. Practical ways that you can do this are by spending one-on-one time regularly with each child and letting him choose what you do together.  Be sure to point out the areas where you see him excelling as well as encourage him in those areas.
  • Model how to compromise and solve conflicts–Children learn from us how to handle difficult situations.  Talk with her about the challenges you face every day and how you worked out the problem.  Make sure you aren’t blaming others or pointing out others faults, but rather are honestly sharing how you reconcile differences.  Point out that just as you had to compromise, or consider options or look at things  from a different perspective, so she can do this as well in her interactions.
  • Encourage positive and constructive communication–Teach your child that conflicts are normal but there a lots of ways to solve them.  Teach your child to identify the problem and then consider the possibilities for resolution.  Does one child want to play with a toy and the other not want to share?  Ask them to list all the possible solutions to the is problem; play together with the toy, set a timer for each child to play individually with the toy, both take a break and play with something else, etc.  Then rather than you as the parent making the executive decision have them work together to decide which choice is best.  Teach them ways to decide such as; vote, roll a dice and high number wins, rock, paper, scissors. The point here is that as parents we aren’t just solving their problems today, we are teaching them how to solve much bigger conflicts later in life.  Does this take more time than putting the toy up and not letting anyone play with it?  Yes!  But in the long run you are saving time because children are learning to solve their own problems rather than rely on you every time.
  • Frame conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem–Some personality styles are more sensitive to conflict than others.  Some would rather avoid it and others prefer to face it head on.  Teach your children that conflict is normal but how you look at it is important.  Instead of a problem, consider it an opportunity to become closer to each other, to establish rules of play or family time, to understand each others point of view better.  In order to do this, we need to encourage dialogue rather than separation.  As a parent, I would sometime separate my daughters in their own rooms “until you can get along.”  Unfortunately nothing is happening in the separate rooms to encourage this. Instead, consider having the children in conflict sit beside each other and talk until they can solve their differences.
  • Recognize your own feelings surrounding conflict and interpersonal differences.  Just as our children come with their own personalities, we as parents have not only our own temperament but our own history with sibling rivalry.  Were you the youngest child in your family who felt continually picked on by the oldest?  Were you the middle child who felt you had to create conflict to get noticed?  Our own history may flavor how we react to conflict in our children.  Make sure that you are operating out of a calm space and teaching good skills rather than taking sides or replaying your own history.

Sibling rivalry can be seen as a problem to be squashed or an opportunity to build character, cooperation, understanding, interpersonal skills and closeness if we give our children the support and encouragement to help them work it out. As parents we can model and teach the best way to solve interpersonal conflicts, leaving our children with skills they will use all their lives.

 Grab Wyatt’s newest book  here!!

 Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max wants to build a fort and Callie wants to have a tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done?  When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

New!!  Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books.  Create lessons that develop cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.





Want to learn more about sibling rivalry and other parenting questions?  Check out my eBook, Stuff Parents Want to Know for free!  Click on the Store tab, follow the link and use the coupon code, wyattwonders, for a free download.