I’ve been discussing children who have trouble with executive functioning skills and today I’ll focus on helping children to monitor their own behavior. Often children do not even realized when they are off-task, or bothering others, or behaving in inappropriate ways. Having a concrete way for them to keep track of how well they are doing can be very effective.
The first step is to figure out two or three behaviors that you’ll focus on. This should be done with the child helping to choose so that he or she is invested in the task. You’ll want to tell the child something like, “I have a great way for you to learn new ways to behave. You’ll be like the boss who keeps track of yourself and decides how you’re doing each day. Let me explain it to you. First we need to figure out what you want to learn how to do better. I think we should focus on when you first come into the classroom in the morning. What could you do better?” Hopefully the child will be able to identify a few behaviors, with your guidance.
Next, help the child make a chart that will help him to keep track of the new behavior. Here’s a sample for a first grader:
The next step is the most important. Model and teach the child the new behavior, having him practice it until he is comfortable doing it independently. In this case, it might be how to hang up his coat in the coat room. Don’t forget visual aids, like photos or diagrams. Then decide on a time of day in which the child will check off how he did. It is critical that the child makes the checks and decides whether he did a good enough job. What you are teaching (in addition to the new behavior) is the ability to SELF-monitor. If you make the decision about whether it was good enough or not, you take away the child’s opportunity to learn.
You might be tempted to tie in rewards or punishments to this chart, but I don’t recommend it. Let the self-monitoring be its own goal. Give positive feedback to the child verbally about his ability to self-monitor. Even if the child didn’t do the behaviors well one day, the more important point is that he knew he didn’t do them well. Remember the goal is self-monitoring. More of a reward is not needed – just let the intrinsic good feelings of being successful at monitoring work!
Let us know how this works for you or if you’ve tried something similar.