Personality Test
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Personality Test

Logical Consequences for Teaching Self-Control to Mischievous Children
by David Keirsey

I began my life work of trying to correct human conduct in homes and schools in 1950. At the time, even after spending four years in a graduate psychology department, I had almost no corrective methods, most of these yet to be invented by the more venturesome therapists. I immediately began collecting corrective methods, such that by the time I quit working for public schools in 1981 I had found and practiced a large variety of effective procedures for improving behavior.Throughout my career I have insisted that my students and colleagues learn and apply these methods, their job being to see to it that their patients -- children, parents, spouses, teachers --do better. I called my job, and that of my students and colleagues, "corrective intervention," on the grounds that it is the responsibility of the therapist to change lives for the better.

Having worked in a probation department reform school for delinquent boys for a couple of years after graduate school I had noted that removing privileges gave counselors more control than admonition or punishment. Indeed, any attempt to bother those boys for their mischief made matters worse. So I began encouraging parents and teachers simply to take away whatever privilege a child abuses, whether the privilege be a toy, a tool, a place, or a person --without comment. The rule was: if a child abuses a privilege, then he loses that privilege for a set period of time. It worked.

Then came those mischievous boys who wouldn't stay in their seats for long and would make all sorts of noises and motions not matter what the teacher did or said. What to do about them. Well, take away the privilege of being a classmate.

That's what this essay is about. - David Keirsey

ABUSE IT -- LOSE IT
Logical Consequences for Teaching Self-Control to Mischievous Children
by David Keirsey

A ten year old boy bothers his teacher and classmates far too often. The teacher intervenes, but to no avail. Principal and parents fail also. Is there any alternative to excluding the pupil from school or drugging him into submission? Yes. The alternative is a method called "systematic exclusion," or recently, "abuse it -- lose it."

A contract is made. Each person agrees to do his or her part: the pupil agrees to do as he pleases; the teacher agrees to send him home immediately when he makes any kind of disruptive noise or motion; the principal agrees to see to it that he arrives at home; the parent agrees to do or say nothing about the incident. The teacher also agrees to forego all "commercials," to avoid all attempts to influence him in any way whatsoever, and never to speak to him about his disruptive behavior, either in the sense of reminding him not to disrupt classroom proceedings, or coaxing him to do otherwise. The parents agree not to talk with him about school at all and not to punish him in any way for school misbehavior. The principal agrees to supervise the pupil's leaving class, going home, and is also obligated not to discuss disruptive behavior with the pupil. Everybody acts, nobody talks. Only the psychologist may talk with the pupil about the promises of pupil, teacher, principal, and parent.

The first day on contract the pupil lasts only five minutes. The teacher sees him out of his seat, and as agreed signals him to leave the classroom. He reports to the office and is sent home by the principal. The next day he stays put for ten minutes. This time he leans back in his seat too far so that the chair falls with a loud clatter as he (agilely) scrambles from it. His teacher again signals him to leave. His mother says nothing about the incident, but she does get upset and calls the psychologist -- as he advised her to do whenever she wanted to discuss the situation. He reassures her that this is precisely what should happen and that he is pleased with the pupil's and teacher's and principal's cooperation with him, making it clear that getting himself kicked out of school daily is cooperation on the pupil's part, and that kicking him out is cooperation on the part of the principal and teacher. Moreover, he tells her he is very pleased that she kept her word not to talk to her son about the incident and that that is cooperation on her part. He then predicts that her son will last fifteen minutes the next day, and he cautions her not to talk with her son or anyone else about the contract, even if someone, especially her son, tries to draw her into a conversation about it. The pattern continues. The mother has to be reassured twice more that the plan is on target and on schedule, and that it is absolutely necessary that the pupil actually is sent home immediately on each occasion that he is out of his seat without permission or makes disruptive noises or motions. The father threatens to go back to spanking him for his misbehavior at school, even though he has acknowledged to the psychologist that previous spankings have not decreased the disruptive behavior. The teacher tells the psychologist that when the pupil leaves, the whole class calms down is and more productive. The other pupils wonder what is going on. They begin to express sympathy for their classmate because he is sent home each day for only one offense and a trivial one to boot.

On the ninth day of the contract the pupil stays all day. He proudly announces this to the principal. The principal (forewarned by the psychologist) is "surprised" and says so, carefully avoiding praise.

When an adult praises a child for some performance, he deprives the child of an opportunity to evaluate his own performance, and the child soon learns to defer performance evalutation to the adult. If the child feels inadequate this deferment can set up a defensive game of praise seeking and criticism avoidance.

For the rest of the year, with only two exceptions, the pupil remains in class without a single instance of getting out of his seat without permission or undue motions or noises. He begins to do his work. Parents and teachers remark that "he is not the same boy." The other children seem to like him and include him in their play. He relaxes. He likes himself. He smiles now. He is elected class president.

The teacher and the parents want the contract discontinued now that he is clearly in control of himself. The psychologist formally cancels the contract just as he formally installed it. Chronic misbehavior returns immediately and with renewed vigor. The contract is reinstalled. The misbehavior disappears immediately. The same contract is installed in the middle of the following school year. The third year it is used only during the last quarter. The following year it is not needed at all. The pupil is in charge of himself. It has worked. This course of events is typical of hundreds of cases in California schools and perhaps thousands of cases throughout the nation since its announcement in 19571. The method has proven itself effective in all elementary and secondary grades. Why does it work?

Chronic Disruptive Behavior
Occasionally psychologists are referred a pupil whose mischief is marked more by its chronicity than its unacceptability. Such a pupil never really stops misbehaving. Each of his actions in itself is trivial, something that many of his classmates do at one time or another during the day. Thus it is not what he does that matters, rather how often he does it. As he comes into the classroom he bumps into someone and snickers about it. A few minutes later he "falls" out of his chair. Shortly he yawn loudly. After a while he breaks his pencil "accidentally" of course and so must go to the pencil sharpener, which he does forthwith, without asking for permission to do so. To and from the pencil sharpener he catches the attention of several other pupils with interesting grimaces and gymnastics. At this juncture the teacher reminds him that he is calling too much attention to himself and that it is best that he get back to his seat and do his assignment. Nonetheless in another short five or so minutes he talks in a loud whisper to his neighbor and shortly after this he gets out of his seat and wanders over to the nature display, fiddles with and breaks one of the objects. This interrupts the teacher's management of a reading circle and brings her to him. She scolds him, telling him that he should not handle the property of others, that he left his seat without permission, that he is to return to his seat and get busy with his school work, none of which he has done thus far. By now his teacher's temperature is slightly elevated and her nerves slightly frayed. This pattern of behavior continues throughout the day. Occasionally the teacher intervenes with such measures as scolding, reminding, coaxing, urging, threatening, sending him on errands, sending him to the office "to think it over" and "to see the principal."

There are some rather striking features about this pattern of interaction between teacher and pupil that bear examination. First, notice that it doesn't matter which method she uses, his niggling misconduct continues as if she hadn't intervened at all. Oh, he may stop for ten minutes, may miss a beat or two, but essentially the rhythm of timing is kept up as if it were unrelated to the teacher's attempts to stop it. A chart may help to make visible this pattern of action compared to that of some other classmates:

Looking at the top line that represents Joe Tornado's daily performance, having as it does a frequency of one disruptive act at five or ten minute intervals, however small these acts -- waving of hands, shuffling of feet, out of seat, yawning, snorting, sniffing, and so on --we can see that the total day comprises an impressive summation of attention-getting devices. Note that Pete Wiseguy got out of his seat three times, while Bobby Showoff made two witticisms, Billy Copycat waved his hand excessively to be called upon and Johnny Fussy shouted angrily at his neighbor -- all disruptive acts, but added together only a fraction of Joe Tornado's awesome score. The teacher has tried to cope (unsuccessfully) with, say, every fifth or sixth antic depending upon her particular tolerance level. Finally, having run through her stock of techniques for stopping disruptive behavior and inducing productive behavior, she finally allows herself to recognize that she is going through the list the fourth or fifth time. Whatever the condition that brings it about, she eventually reaches that point indicated on the chart as the "TBS" point (Teacher Blows Stack).

The Teacher's Dilemma
Why does the teacher get so upset? Because she hates the pupil? No, rather because she is blocked in her desire to be a good teacher; because she feels helpless; because her methods, methods that have worked for twenty years, do not work with this pupil. This pupil threatens her sense of effectiveness. And it is this that occasions the emotional upsurge. Many teachers pride themselves, and justifiably, on their ability to handle pupils -- misbehaving pupils included. When such an experienced, expert, and confident teacher comes up against this sort of pupil, she cannot quite believe that her methods are ineffective.

Consequently, she continues applying these measures long past the point of reason. They have always worked, why don't they work now? She continues, certain that sooner or later the pupil will "come around." In the meantime, she inexorably and inevitably loses her respect for this pupil, just as his classmates do, and as they should. The end result is unadorned disgust, contempt, and outright hatred. Finally she appeals to the principal or to the parents or both. They scold, remind, encourage, cajole, bribe, spank, threaten, incarcerate, suspend, lecture, give friendly counsel, use a schedule of positive reinforcement, adjust the curriculum, on and on. Yet the pattern of chronic misbehavior continues. Now the principal begins to think in term of expulsionÑsending the pupil home for good (suspension is merely temporary exclusion from school).

What is the dilemma? On the one hand no single act of disruption warrants much reaction, but on the other, the cumulative effect literally "packs the air' of the classroom with chronic tension. When the pupil is absent there is a noticeable improvement in classroom atmosphere as any teacher will testify once she has experienced dealing with such a pupil. How frequently does one encounter a case of such severity? In suburban schools of middle class parentage, the frequency is about one per school or perhaps one per two schools, say one for every 300 children. Obviously this pattern of behavior may exist in degrees. The pupil may have a frequency or "beat" of one disturbing act in each five minute interval, while another may do one thing in each thirty minutes (72 disturbances per day versus 12 disturbances). Both are "chronic" misbehavior, but the latter is much less disturbing in that the classroom tension level is not nearly so high. Naturally there are more cases of the less extreme frequency, but these are more tolerable and more easily dealt with by normal techniques of the teacher, principal, and parent. The truly chronic misbehavior pattern takes more heroic efforts and methods than those ordinarily used.

Logical Consequences
Experiment with what was long ago called the "systematic exclusion" method of dealing with chronic misbehavior was begun in 1952. This method was inspired by the writings of psychiatrist H. S. Sullivan. Oddly enough, though, the method is much more coherent with the social field theory of Alfred Adler and his disciple, Rudolph Dreikers. Dreikurs' concept of logical consequences is most applicable here. Systematic exclusion is easier to understand as a special case of the method of logical consequences. In the interest of conceptualizing the method, we would do well to examine, if only briefly, the distinction between logical and arbitrary consequences.

The method of consequences consists in invoking a sequence of action which controls the behavior of the pupil and people around the pupil such that a given act on the pupil's part results in a specified act on the part of those around him. When he does something, others are constrained to react as specified by the sequence. It is an action-reaction sequence, where action and reaction are contingent.

There are at least four separate types of consequences available for such a sequence: (1) penalties, (2) rewards, (3) feedback, and (4) restriction. The first two are arbitrary; the second two are logical. Let us see what the distinction is. An arbitrary consequence is one that cannot be deduced from the act that it is contingent upon. Suppose a pupil sasses the teacher and in consequence his mother won't allow him to watch TV for a week. What is the relation between watching TV and sassing the teacher? Clearly there isn't any logical relation, so the contingency is arbitrary. This penalty is chosen, not because it is logically connected to the boy's asocial act, but because it is deemed the thing most likely to bother him. Such consequences have to be chosen arbitrarily, since the purpose is related to payment, not logic. Understand now, this does not mean that arbitrarily chosen consequences are ineffective. It means rather that there is a difference between logical and arbitrary consequences which should not be ignored. With certain types of problems, arbitrary consequences are far more effective in modifying behavior than are logical consequences. For example, reward methods have shown themselves to be quite powerful, not only in starting productive behavior, but also in stopping disruptive behavior.

A logical consequence is one chosen because it should logically follow a given act simply because that's the way things happen in the real world. Unfortunately, with children especially, (more because of the tendency of adults to protect them from reality than from children's relative lack of development), reality or logical consequences are too long in coming and/or are not clearly seen. This may be because other things obtrude, such as adult "commercials" about what is going on. There are two kinds of logical outcomes of negative acts: (1) feedback or knowledge of results, and (2) loss of the abused privilege. It is the latter that concerns us here.

Abuse It--Lose It
The concept of loss of privilege brings up an idea basic to social field theory: abuse of a privilege brings about loss of that privilege, sooner or later, in one way or another. Applying this idea would consist in seeing to it that abuse of a privilege does in fact, and immediately, bring about its loss. If you abuse it, then you lose it. Billy Showoff makes noises with his chair. As a logical consequence, his teacher takes away his chair for a period of time, say the rest of the day. He is no longer free to use the chair. She does not scold him or get his mother to spank him, or take away his bicycle. Rather, she takes away the thing he abused. He misuses his chair, therefore he loses his chair.

Mary bad-mouths her mother. Mother does not slap her or scold her, rather she invokes the logical consequence of removing the child from her presence, or herself from the presence of the child. Mary abuses the privilege of being with her mother, therefore she loses that privilege for a while -- not the privilege of having a bicycle or a dinner or some other irrelevant privilege.

Suppose it doesn't bother Mary to be away from her mother for the time being? Suppose she is perfectly happy playing in her room or outside, if that is where mother chooses to send her? Fine! The fact that there is little or no suffering involved in the loss of a privilege in no way affects the corrective power of the method. The pain-evoking or punitive methods are specifically designed and chosen to bother, to hurt, to arouse feelings, to make the culprit sorry, remorseful, repentant. Not so in the case of the abuse it--lose it method. The purpose of the abuse it--lose it method is: Let reality shape behavior. The rule is that behavior, nothing interfering, will take whatever shape reality dictates. Many children, especially the very active ones, are born pragmatists: they do what they must to get what they want.

Unfortunately, and in the case of misbehaving children especially, reality (natural consequences) is interfered with by the well-meaning adult. Usually this interference consists, at first, in a stepped-up program of "commercials," threats, and later, punishment. These usually are quite effective in obscuring the culprit's perception of reality as well as shielding him from the effects of reality, that is, the natural consequences of his deeds.

Arbitrary consequences such as punishment change feelings. Logical consequences change behavior. Billy talks out in class. His teacher scolds him. This makes him feel bad. He may or may not talk out in class in the next five minutes. Joe Tornado talks out in class. Having agreed to do so, his teacher sends him home without comment. How he feels is irrelevant. It is impossible for him to talk out in class for the rest of the day because he isn't there. Whatever has happened to his feelings is problematic, but his behavior has altered radically from disruptive presence to tranquil absence. To set up such a program it is necessary for the psychologist to interview the teacher, the pupil, the principal, and the parents.

Interviewing the Teacher
It is necessary to find out from the teacher what is happening in the classroom. Study the dialogue that has been going on between teacher and pupil. What does he do when he first comes into the room? Interview her in the classroom, have her give examples of what he does. See where he is sitting. What does she do when he does what he does? What does he do then? What then does she do? Then what does he do? Then she? How is the class when he is gone? Show her that you understand how difficult it is for her and his classmates with such a constant disruptive presence. This can be done by making statements suggesting how she must feel: for example, "I don't see how you can stand him behaving like that day after day, week after week, month after month." "If I were you I'd want to wring his neck!" "That must be awfully irritating!"

Avoid giving the impression that you expect the teacher to cope with this kind of behavior. If she feels she ought to be able to cope, it's up to you to help her see how unusual this pupil is, that he isn't doing what he's doing for ordinary reasons and that therefore ordinary methods won't work.

Find out if the teacher has any ideas of what methods she figures ought to be tried which have not yet been tried. She may have an approach, a card up her sleeve, which she believes would work, but feels that such a method would be unacceptable. For example, she may feel "if the principal would paddle him, he'd straighten out!" As long as she has this untried agenda, she cannot wholeheartedly use your method, so this agenda must be put on the table. Indeed, this might be taken as a general operating rule: In encountering each participant -- principal, teacher, pupil, parent -- make sure that their untried solutions are brought forth and that each admits that the method has been tried and has failed or that it would fail if used. Almost invariably, the "untried solution" of each is some variant of the punishment method, such as spanking, scolding, staying after school, loss of TV, and the like. Usually the untried solution will not have been examined carefully, so that there will not be many details that the teacher or parent will volunteer on just how this could be done. A few questions on the details of how the method would be applied are usually enough to get the person to admit that it has already been tried or that it just wouldn't work if tried. If the method does seem feasible, or if the person is convinced that it would work, then it is well to go ahead and use the method, just to prove that it will not work. If it's a punitive method, it undoubtedly will not work.

Frequently, by the time the teacher has requested help, say after Christmas, the pupil has made such a shambles of her class and has made her feel so powerless for so long that she dislikes him with some intensity. If it has gone this far, it is well to find another teacher for the pupil. When one intends to shift a pupil from one class to another, it will be necessary to help the teacher deal with her sense of guilt. This can be done by explaining that no matter what is done, it cannot be done in this class because the pupil has wrecked his relations with his classmates, thus making an about-face all but impossible. In another class with a program of logical consequences, he would have no chance to destroy his relations, because the instant he is out of his seat or makes a noise he's gone. Thus, the teacher needs to be assured that any success in another class will be due not to any greater skill on the part of the next teacher, but rather to the inflexible circumstances under which he will enter the new classroom. Hence, it will be necessary to explain the systematic exclusion procedure to her even though she will not be the one using it. She will have invested, by this time, a tremendous amount of energy and emotion into this case and will not lightly give up the pupil to someone else unless reassured that it is best for her class, for the pupil, and for her, to remove him from the mess he has made. Her pride must be carefully guarded in such a situation. She must know that you and the principal regard this as a most unusual case which will require a most unusual method, perhaps for years to come.

Interviewing the Pupil
In approaching the pupil avoid giving him the impression that your interest in him is administrative. Nothing is lost and much can be gained by saying that your job is to help those pupils who have trouble in school and that the reason you are talking to him is that he is in trouble. Thus, you don't ask him if he's in trouble, but take it for granted he knows about his troubles. The remainder of the interview might be used to find out what the pupil thinks is happening. Does he want that to be what is happening? If he sees things as bad for him, ask him if he would like some help to make things go better. Suggest that possibly the teacher and parents are "getting after him," scolding, blaming, and so on. Would he like them to stop? Ask him what would happen if suddenly the teacher and his parents stopped getting after him to behave himself and do his work? What would he do?

Suggest that maybe he is unhappy at school. How would he like it if you were to persuade everybody that it would be OK to let him stay home? Some will say no, don't do that. Others will say they would like that. This gives you a methodological cue. One pupil wants people to "leave him alone." The one who backs away from the suggestion that adults will no longer try to get him to school or try to get him to learn, must be treated in one way, i.e., with a "proclamation" approach. The pupil who eagerly wants to "get people off my back" must be dealt with another way, that is, with a contract approach. The distinction between proclamation and contract will be discussed later.

The initial interview need not be lengthy. Its purpose is to establish you as one who intends to help the pupil do better at school, one who is prepared to get others to make unusual concessions and unusual arrangements for him. In other words, you establish yourself as the pupil's advocate. You indicate that the teacher and principal are worried about the pupil and have requested your help. You also tell him that you will interview his parents in his interest and that you will return to him with some plan of action. As the pupil's advocate, you leave the impression: "I'll see what I can do for you."

Interviewing the Parents
The next step is more touchy and more critical than any of the others. The parents will be loaded with negative feelings. These must be drained off or ventilated before any other work can be done. By accepting parental feelings as natural under the circumstances, it is easier to persuade them that you are indeed concerned, not with defending the school, but with doing something to help their child. And this must be the theme -- helpful things to do.

It is advisable to present yourself as one who is hired by the school to help pupils do better at school. The focus, in other words, is not on understanding, but on changing, behavior. This focus will help parents turn from trying to find the causes, which to them will mean trying to find whom to blame, to trying to determine what to do. It is well to suggest that the causes of any case of such behavior are so many and complex that it is fruitless to worry about them. It is imperative that you derail parental attempts to blame someone. They must see you as one devoted solely to determining what to do to help their child, and that you are too intent upon this purpose to bother with such academic questions as whose fault it is or what the causes are. In other words, here is a case where it may even be necessary to belittle the question of causality in the interest of insuring parental cooperation for what you have in mind doing.

This may seem strange and so may require some explanation. It is useful to assume that if you allow your transaction with the parents to dwell on hypothetical causes, these causes, once surfaced, become excuses and as such militate against doing much of anything about the problem. Your refusal to wonder about causes is your strongest bid for their trust. And their trust you must have, else they will not do what you ask of them. Once trust is established explore the history of the child's behavior. How was he as a baby? When did he become overactive? Was he always unusually active? Inquire about his behavior in each grade and the correlated behavior at home. This is not a search for causes, but a history of what he has done and what people have done in reaction to this. The focus is not on "why" but on "what." This historic search establishes the tenure and continuity of the child's problem and acknowledges that it didn't come out of the blue or because of the incompetence of his teachers.

Blowing off steam, establishing trust, charting the behavioral history -- these are enough for the initial interview. The next interview may be devoted to disclosing the plan of treatment.

Interviewing the Principal
You have thus far gotten involved with the teacher, the pupil, and one or both of the parents. The next step is to return to the principal and propose the use of "systematic exclusion" or the "abuse it--lose it" plan. Whether or not he is familiar with the method, it is unwise to neglect a thorough exposition of the theory that underlies it and the procedures involved in its use. It is important that the principal -- and later, the parent -- sees this method as an alternative to expulsion. The method, in other words, is presented as a way of protecting the pupil from permanent exclusion from school. It is not "just something else to try to see if it will work." All other known methods have failed. This is presented as "the last ditch stand." It is not whether to send the pupil home, but how long to send him home, that is, either temporarily or for good. Temporary dismissal is presented as a safeguard against permanent exclusion.

Although the plan is presented as both therapeutic and protective, the emphasis with the principal is better placed on the latter. Thus, this should be seen by him as primarily an administrative way of protecting the class from disruption, the teacher's sanity, and the pupil's privilege of attending school. Only secondarily is it a way of helping the pupil gain control of himself. In presenting the plan to the parents, it is well to reverse the emphasis: first therapy, then protection.

The principal must be committed to the position that he will no longer allow this pupil to disrupt the classroom, whatever the causes of such behavior, even if it means getting rid of the pupil. This commitment places the abuse i--lose it rule in the role of hero rather than villain, or at least as the lesser of two evils. But you do well to emphasize that in your opinion such a program of control is precisely the kind of therapy the pupil needs, quite apart from administrative necessities. But the principal must play his role of asserting the administrative necessities, thus providing grounds for using the program to serve both administrative and therapeutic concerns.

It will be important to discuss the legal issues involved in the procedure. The procedure of dismissing a pupil from school because he abuses the privilege of being there comes under the exemption law. It is not suspension, not expulsion, and not exclusion, as these terms are understood in the legal sense. Suspension, expulsion, and exclusion may be executed by the school officials without parental consent or sanction. Exemption allows for dismissal from school only with parental sanction. In systematic exclusion, the pupil is dismissed at parental request, that is, is released to parental custody2. The task, then, remains that of convincing the parents that in the interest of their child's welfare such a request be made. Thus, on each occasion that the pupil is dismissed, it is understood by all that the parents have signed a request for such early dismissal.

Presenting the Plan to the Parents
It is important to have the parents acknowledge that they do not know what to do to control their child's behavior at school. If one or the other proposes some procedure, say spanking, ask him or her what results this method has gotten thus far. Get an admission that it doesn't work, that is, it does not control behavior. Ask then if he or she is suggesting that a method be used that clearly has not worked.

Propose then that the principal is in the position of having to consider expulsion -- that it is his administrative responsibility to do so. Remind them that their child is not doing his work, is not learning, and is making it very difficult for the other children to do their work and to learn. If he is friendless and disliked -- which is usually the case -- point this out also. Describe, in other words, what a mess he's in, emphasizing that his present attendance at school is not doing him any good, but on the contrary is doing him harm. This fact will have to be repeated on a number of occasions because the parents will manage somehow to forget it.

Explain that their child's major problem is not learning, but self-control. Say that for whatever reason he does not control himself. He cannot even attend school, not to mention learn, if he cannot control himself: the school can't control him, the home can't either, the question then is, can he learn to control himself? That question must be answered. Above all else, the child himself needs to know whether or not he can control himself, else he will not survive in or out of school. Can this need be met?

The answer is yes, if their child is given constant practice in self-control as the major educational offering. Not academic training, but self-control training. Academic learning cannot be approached until self-control has been attained.

How is this to be done? By simply sending him home when he fails to control himself as the immediate and inevitable consequence of that failure. Thus, in order to stay in school, he must practice self-control. There will be no other means provided for him to remain in school.

The teacher will be forbidden to influence him in any manner in this regard. The parents will agree, if they buy the plan, to forego any help. The parents will protest that this is precisely what the child would like. After all, he hates school, as he should, considering his sorry experiences there. He will therefore deliberately break rules just to get sent home!

Your answer should be: Nonsense! He likes school. He wants to be in school3. He just hasn't found out yet that school is what he likes and wants. Indeed, much of his problem is that he doesn't really know what he likes or wants because his whole life has been lived negatively, in terms of what others like and don't like, want and don't want. The interests of others have furnished him his only motive. With this plan, what others like and want is removed from his life by radical surgery. He is to do as he pleases! But first he must discover what pleases him since he can no longer get away with doing what displeases others. The instant he does that, he is no longer around to continue it.

Thus, you tell the parents, every minute he remains in school is one minute of practice in self-control to fulfill his wish to be in school. Where before a whole day in school gave him nothing, now five minutes in school is curative of his most basic problem. Ask the parent, can self-control be achieved without practice? And how can he practice self-control now, having relinquished this responsibility to his teacher and his parents?

It can now be said to parents that this method has been used on thousands of children for four decades with a high percentage of success, success defined as after several days of being sent home, the child totally stops misbehaving and starts doing his school work. The parents will object that their child won't learn anything if he is not at school. You answer this by reminding them that he has not thus far learned much and is not now learning much, and that he certainly is not doing his work. Therefore he can scarcely lose something he does not already have. But, you can add, after some weeks4 of being sent home he will stay in school and be in a position to learn if he so desires. Here you can remind them that the gaining of self-control is a necessary prerequisite to learning, as they well know, but will choose to forget.

Whatever the degree to which the parents understand the plan, the primary reason for explaining it is to get them to accept it. It is not a good idea to assume that once they have agreed to it they will continue to agree after it is set going. Some parents can talk about both the theory and the method with seemingly accurate understanding, yet three days later act as if they had never heard about either. Some will also forget what they agreed to. But be not dismayed. The important thing is that they did agree and that the plan was installed. From there on you must, as before, use your wits to keep it going for that first crucial two weeks. After that, with the child behaving himself, parental understanding and acceptance become largely irrelevant.

The Staging Conference
It is hard to get teachers to dismiss a pupil from class the very first time he gets out of his seat, or waves his hand, or whispers to a neighbor. All of her training, experience, and even her instincts tell her to give him another chance. The teacher is not only going to need the sanction of the administration and parents, but that sanction must be official and out in the open. Even better than a sanction for such inflexibility for some teachers is the demand to honor the signed contract.

The teacher is not the only one who needs the reassurance of common sanction for this strange procedure. All parties concerned need it. All must see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears this agreement on what is to happen. The pupil must see his parent or parents actually committing themselves to this plan before witnesses. The only way that this can be done is by an open confrontation of all parties. This is the function of the Staging Conference. The teacher, principal, pupil, parent, and psychologist meet together to discuss the plan.

Twenty to forty minutes will suffice. It is best, though not necessary, to hold the conference in the morning just before school. This gives the pupil an immediate opportunity to test the alleged contingency between rules and the consequence of breaking them.

The structure of the conference may vary with the personalities involved. The principal may take the lead or the psychologist, whichever one plays the role best and depending on whether a contract or a proclamation is to be used. A contract is a written agreement in which each party promises to do something in exchange for what the other parties do. Thus, in the contract the pupil agrees to play his part, namely, to do as he pleases and take the credit or blame for what ensues. A proclamation does not ask the pupil to agree to anything. It is simply proclaimed and witnessed by the pupil that the persons involved will act as specified. What the pupil does is his business. When a pupil declines to sign a proposed contract, simply switch to a proclamation so that his signature is not called for, telling the pupil it is not necessary for him to agree to anything and that the adults who sign the agreement wish him to do anything he pleases.

Although many variations are possible, essentially the conference should consist in specifying the role that each person is to play. Usually one should brief each participant before the meeting. This pre-conference briefing of pupil, parent, teacher, and principal emphasizes that no one is the sole target of the conference or a mere passive bystander.

One can suggest to the pupil that as his advocate, you are acting on his behalf and will be telling each person what is expected of them. You do well also to warn him that he won't understand everything being said, but not to worry about it (this forestalls a ploy often used by children in which they contrive not to understand). Also indicate that he will be asked some questions about the classroom rules that are to apply solely to him.

In briefing the teacher, you should warn her that she will be asked to agree to dismiss the pupil for the slightest infraction, and that things are going to be said in a rather unusual way to create a dramatization of the conference. Especially ask her to help out at the end of the conference on setting the specific rules and what would constitute a breach of these rules.

Briefing the parent is the most important and necessary of all four briefings and must not, therefore, be omitted should lack of time require some omissions. It is imperative, especially in such a group confrontation, that he or she feel that you're truly advocating the welfare of the pupil rather than protecting teacher and classmates. Many parents have a tendency to speak for their child, to put words in his mouth, to ask him if he understands, to prompt him to pay attention, to warn him that he must try or he'll be sorry. The symptoms of parental inability to disentangle themselves from their child will likely become painfully evident in the stress of the conference.

It is prudent to enjoin parents specifically not to do these things and warn them that if they do, you will openly contradict them and ask them to discontinue speaking for or to the child. Despite this, they are likely to at least give the child a pep talk, in which case you must say that you doubt precisely what the parent is sure about. If the parent says, for example, "Oh, I'm sure Joe will be able to stay in his seat," you are wise to cut in and say, "On the contrary, it will be very difficult for Joe to remember to stay in his seat, even if he wants to; I predict he won't be able to for a long time, maybe even a month of being sent home every day for getting out of his seat!" Again, it is useful to warn the parents that this is what they can expect, and that the adults involved will be doing these things so that the child will get full credit when and if he stays in his seat, explaining that it is unwise to taint the child's achievement with parental encouragement.

In briefing the principal, you establish who is conducting the conference, the psychologist or the principal. As suggested, either one can appropriately chair the conference while the other asks clarifying questions.

Conducting the Staging Conference
First, explain that the conference is being held in order to agree on what each person is to do and to assure the pupil of what to expect of each adult. The reason for this should be stated bluntly: the pupil is bothering his teacher and classmates, but no one knows how to stop him from doing so. Consider talking in the somewhat in the following manner:

"We're here because Joe is bothering his teacher and classmates and we don't know how to stop him. So the best thing we can do is let him alone. Joe, I want you to meet Mrs. Smith, your new teacher. She promises all of us that she won't try to get you to do anything, and won't remind, coax, encourage, or urge you to do anything. You promise this, do you not, Mrs. Smith? If she breaks her promise, she will be failing you and doing you harm. Mrs. Smith, do you also promise never to give Joe a second chance? If she breaks her promise, you let me know and I'll scold her. She will be friendly with you and help you if you want help. She will help you, but she won't try to get you to do anything.

"If you don't want to do your school work, that's your business. You don't have to. In fact, if you want to, you can sleep in class all day. From now on you can be your own boss. You can do anything you choose to do. If you choose not to do your work, don't do it. If you choose not to study, don't study. If you choose to make a noise, make it. If you choose to make a commotion, do so. If you choose to get up out of your seat, do so. You are free to do anything you wish.

"If you bother others in any way, you can't stay in class. This means that you can do one thing each day that bothers somebody, after that you're gone. Your teacher promises to signal you to leave. You may come back the next day if you wish. That's all that will happen. When you do something that bothers somebody, you must leave.

"Now remember, your teacher promises she won't try to get you to do anything, so that means that when she signals it's time for you to leave and you don't want to, she won't try to make you go. She won't even talk to you about it because that would be trying to get you to do something.

"Some day when you have been trying to stay in school, and have been working on something interesting, and you forget the rules and are out of your seat without permission and then suddenly you remember and catch yourself, but in the meantime the teacher saw you; well, it's too late. She has to signal you to go home. Now you're going to feel bad about this today because maybe some of the other kids were out of their seats without permission too. Why shouldn't you be able to? Well, remember I said before, the reason you can't is that you are your own boss. They aren't. Maybe they'll be reminded, but you won't. Maybe they'll be scolded, but you won't. Maybe they'll be encouraged, but you won't. So when you get up out of your seat without permission, the teacher must give the signal for you to go home.

"Now this might make you mad, and you might sit there and think, 'They're picking on me, none of the other kids have to leave. I won't go.' Since the teacher promises not to try to get you to do anything and can only signal you to leave, all she can do then is to call the principal and the principal will come get you. This is a lot of bother and these people don't want this to happen every day, so whenever the principal comes and gets you, you'll miss the next three school days.So if you ever want a three-day vacation, all you have to do is break one of the rules, for example, get up out of your seat without permission, and when the teacher signals you to leave, just sit there, act like you didn't see or hear the signal, and the principal will send you home for three days.

"You may be thinking, 'Well, heck, I don't want to go home for three days, because my mother will get mad at me and scold me and maybe even punish me.' But she promises us all that she won't get mad at you and won't punish you in any way. So you can have fun when you get home. It'll be just like Saturday because your mother, right here, right now, promises all of us, including you -- don't you Mrs. Tornado? -- that after you have broken a rule and have been sent home, it is just like Saturday. No punishment, no scolding, in fact, your mother promises you right now that she won't even ask you why you are home. She promises not even to talk to you about it, just as she promises not to get mad at you or to punish or scold you in any way.

"We don't want you to feel bad. The principal won't be sending you home to make you feel bad, but because you broke a rule and that is the only reason. If you can have fun at home, that's fine. We want you to have fun and feel good. In fact, it might be a good idea if your mother would have some games for you to play at home. But when you are home, you have to stay in the house or in the yard because it is against the law for you to be off of your premises during school hours. After school is over, you can go wherever you usually go after school.

"Now, let's figure out what rules we should have in the classroom. Your last teacher told me that one thing you do that bothers the other kids is that you get up out of your seat often and wander around. So, one of the rules should be that when you get up out of your seat without permission, you have to go home for the rest of the day. Your teacher also told me that one of the things you do that bothers the other kids is that you are talking out a lot and making noises, so I think another rule should be that whenever you talk out without permission or make unusual noises or motions, then you go home for the rest of the day. In general, if you bother anybody in any way, you go home.

"The teacher doesn't actually have to see you do something that bothers others. If she guesses that you did something bothersome then it is her responsibility to excuse you from class. Now, lots of the time this will be unfair because you may not have done what she guesses you did. But just to guess that you did something means that you get sent home, because, remember, you're different from the other kids. You get into trouble more than they do and it's just as if there's a spotlight on you. And in order to stay in class, if you want to, you have to be better than all of the other kids.

"But I guess you won't want to stay in school all the time, so all you have to do is get out of your seat or be noisy. Now you may think that it is going to be easy for you to keep from doing this. But it won't be. It's going to be rough. In fact, I think you are going to find that it is much harder than you thought, you're going to find if you want to stay in school, you have to practice, actually practice, on how to keep from bothering others. Here's the reason why. All your life you've had people there to remind you. Now, no one will be reminding you. Not even once. So it's going to be hard, and I doubt if you'll be able to stay in school very much for the first two or three months. You'll probably be sent home every day, even after only a few minutes in the classroom. But that's all right. It takes a lot of practice to be able to control yourself.

"I advise you to try this teacher out. She may not be able to signal you to leave just for breaking one of these little rules. So you might be able to get away with a lot of things. I think you ought to try her out and see, because you probably know by now that a lot of times grown-ups donÕt really mean what they say. These grown-ups may not mean to follow up what I say. It's going to be very hard for your teacher to do what I am asking her to do because all her life she has been doing the opposite. She has been reminding, encouraging, coaxing, scolding -- all the things that teachers usually do. And I am asking her to do the opposite: to leave you alone; to let you be your own boss; to let you remind yourself if you want to be reminded. She's going to find it almost impossible to keep from reminding you. She's going to find it almost impossible to excuse you from class just for getting out of your seat without permission.

"But I'm asking her to do this. I'm asking everybody here to let you alone; to let you be your own boss; to let you fail if you want to; to let you succeed if you want to. And the reason I'm asking everybody to do this, is because nobody here knows how to help you. Maybe you can help yourself. If you do, you get all of the credit. Every minute you stay in your classroom will be one minute that you yourself, all by yourself, decided that you would stay in that classroom. Everything that you do in that classroom will be done because you decided you would do it for your own reasons and not for somebody else's reasons. Everything you do, good or bad, right or wrong, will be your own doing for your own reasons. No one else gets the credit.

"I want to warn everybody here, this pupil will probably be coming home every day for two or three weeks, perhaps even two or three months. This is all right. It takes a long time to learn to be your own boss, with nobody to remind, nobody to encourage, nobody to scold.

"Joe, if the kids ask you what's going on, my suggestion is that you tell them, "This is a deal between my teacher and me." They'll respect this. Anytime you want to talk to me, let your teacher or mother know, and she'll get in touch with me and I'll come down and we can talk. I'm on your side, Joe, and all these people have to do what I say because I'm in charge of this agreement."

The above monolog is only one of many ways of handling the staging conference, depending of course on personal style. The conference may be ended by reading a contract to the participants, such as the one presented below, and by getting each person to to state that he or she understands the assigned role and will honor the agreement to act in the manner stated. With some cases it may be useful to role play how it would happen that the pupil would break a rule and how the teacher would signal him to go home.

At the end of the conference, each person signs the contract or proclamation (in the case of a proclamation, the pupil does not sign). If there is no printed contract, record what the rules are to be and indicate that you will draft a contract for all to sign. The contract should contain a clause stating that the parents agree that it is inadvisable for their child to attend school on any day that he breaks a specified rule and request that on such a day he be dismissed early from school and released to the parents, and that further they understand that they, the parents, on their request, are thereby legally declared exempt from seeing to it that their child attend school as otherwise provided by the compulsory attendance law.

Suggested Contract Form

Teacher: Immediately upon seeing the pupil out of his seat without permission, or making any attention getting motion or noise without permission, the teacher promises to signal the pupil to leave. The teacher promises that on no occasion will she try to influence the pupil to do or not to do anything (no urging, reminding, coaxing, encouraging, or scolding).

Principal: On notification of dismissal the principal shall see to it that the pupil goes home. Further, he promises that when the teacher's signal is not acted on by the pupil, that he will immediately remove the pupil from the classroom and suspend the pupil for three days including the day of dismissal. He also promises to notify the parents of the suspension at the earliest possible moment. He further promises that he will not discuss with the pupil in any way the pupil's behavior (no persuasion, encouragement, pep talks, reminders, or scoldings).

Parents: The parents promise not to hold the school district responsible for this pupil when he is not on school grounds. Also they promise not to scold or punish their child for school behavior, or to discuss school behavior with him, and that they will not seek explanations for early dismissals or suspensions from any person other than the psychologist.

Pupil: The pupil promises to do as he pleases and to take credit for his success or failure regardless of what others do.

Psychologist: The psychologist promises to hold himself responsible for supervising breaches of contract and for revising the contract as needed. He also promises to counsel any of the parties to the contract upon their request and to hold himself fully responsible for the success or failure of the program of logical consequences.

The Follow-up
Since most pupils under these circumstances test the limits immediately, it is useful to suggest to the parent that you hope the child will do something bothersome immediately to reassure himself that the teacher will do her part. You should also explain that it is quite necessary that the child actually build up a history of instances where he bothers others and the teacher immediately sends him home. This, you might explain, is the only way he can really believe in the reality of the promises that were made.

After two or three days of very early dismissal, the mother is likely to become quite upset. Be ready to reassure her that things are going as planned and that it is best that they go that way. Careful surveillance of the procedures must be maintained until the pupil is staying most of the time without getting out of his seat or otherwise disrupting the class. It will also be wise to check on the teacher to make sure she is not overlooking rather obvious disruptive acts. Occasionally, you might confer with the pupil to determine whether his teacher or mother is breaking the contract. Children under such circumstances are very much aware of adult lapses and will readily disclose this to you if you but ask.

If you find that the parent is threatening, bribing, or punishing the child for being sent home, it may be necessary to confront the child and parent together and get the parent to agree again to honor the contract. This still may not get the parent to stop because the child knows how to manipulate her into such behavior. Even so, it tends to disrupt the child's game somewhat and minimize his power over his parent. Generally, despite the almost inevitable lapses of parent and teacher, the pupil will usually get enough intrinsic payoff from being in school on his own to make him want more of it. There is no choice but to sweat it out, counting on the pupil's inherent striving toward health, however latent such striving may be.

If after three weeks there has been no steady increase in the amount of time that the pupil is staying in school, it is well to assume that something is wrong. The most frequent sources are those mentioned above: the teacher is overlooking the pupil's first few disruptive acts or the parent is punishing the pupil for being sent home and/or bribing him to stay in school. Depending on the degree of your skill and conviction, the latter increasing with increase in skill, the method should work in most cases, judging from the author's own experience and from reports of others who have used the method. But what is meant by the expression 'it works?' Since all disruptive behavior disappears does this mean that the pupil's problem of self-control has been solved? Certainly not. Removal of the abuse-it-lose it program brings back the disruptive behavior immediately. No, the solution, if any, is long in coming. Doubtless there are corrective effects in the constant practice in self-control and in the enforced detachment from adult reactions. If there are such effects, they can only be regarded as a mere bonus and by-product. The real solution, if any, comes from having a normal school experience, however enforced such experience may be. Doing ordinary things -- sitting at a desk, doing school work, making friends, playing at recess -- such experiences have enormous intrinsic corrective worth. After months, and sometimes years5 of such enforced experience, it is difficult for the pupil to continue playing his character defense game.

"OOSWOPs" and "MANWOPs"
The kind of behavior at issue is not aggression or destruction, nor does it happen only now and then. It is nuisance behavior and it happens all the time. It is chronic rather than acute and disruptive rather than destructive. Mainly the pupil is out of his seat without permission far too often and makes noises and motions, again without permission, far too often. This chronic out-of-seat-without-permission, "ooswop" for short, and this equally chronic motion-and-noise-without permission, "manwop" for short, convene to make the pupil's presence in the classroom unbearable for teacher and classmates. The very things that the disruptive pupil does are in themselves permissible; if the pupil would only ask for permission to do them his presence wouldn't be so bothersome because he'd be doing them far less often. But he does these otherwise permissible things with such high frequency and always without permission that his pattern of misbehavior is extremely bothersome. Something has to be done about this "ooswop" and "manwop" pattern.

Although extremely important, the essence of the abuse it--lose it method is not the contingency of misbehavior and its consequences as some have claimed. That is, the reason it works is not because there is now a bond between breaking a rule and getting kicked out of school, but because the pupil is finally convinced that no one is going to intercede, that no one is going to try to stop him, that no one is going to give him a "commercial" or punish him. There is the essence: his growing conviction that he's on his own to face the logical consequence of his deeds. Automatic consequences are not enough, by themselves, to do the job. Put a commercial in between his deeds and their so-called consequences and just see how much effect they have! He will make a shambles of the classroom! Why? Because "the commercial" and not "the consequence" is what he sees as the consequence of his deeds. And that is what he's after, over-involvement with adults, control over their feelings and behavior: power, service, revenge! Therefore, the solution is to remove what he seeks, the "commercial," the "sell job" which means to him that the adult is occupied with him.

In milder cases it is enough just to discontinue the commercials. The misbehavior stops because it is not getting what it was designed to get. In these tougher cases of truly chronic disruption, however, an immediate logical consequence has to be tacked on. But failure to recognize the central place occupied by surgical removal of commercials almost guarantees failure of the method.

It is because the pupil faces a logical consequence that teacher and parent are able to forego their commercials. If the adult uses an arbitrary consequence, say spanking, the adult cannot quite bring himself or herself to forego the attempt to get the pupil's sanction. Thus, by offering the teachers and parents logical consequences in lieu of commercials, that is, consequences which are self-evident and require no explanation to the pupil, you relieve their doubts. It is this feature that enables parents and teachers to forego their nagging and punishing, and it is this feature that is the essence of the abuse it--lose it method.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Breggin P., Toxic Psychiatry, St. Martin's Press, NY, NY 1991.
  • Brown J., Bing S., Drugging Children: Child Abuse by Professionals, in Children's Rights and the Mental Health Professions, G. Koocher (ed), Wiley, NY, 1976.
  • Coles G., The Learning Mystique: A Critical Look at "Learning Disabilities," Pantheon, NY, 1987.
  • Dreikurs, R. & Soltz, V., Children The Challenge, Meredith Press, NY, 1964
  • Keirsey D., Systematic Exclusion: A Therapeutic Regimen for Chronic Misbehavior, California Association of School Psychologists, 1954 conference.
  • Keirsey D., Corrective Intervention in the Schools, Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, Del Mar, CA, 1978
  • McGuinness D., Attention Deficit Disorder: The Emperor's New Clothes, Animal "Pharm," and other Fiction, in Fisher & Greenberg (eds), The Limits of Biological Treatments for Psychological Distress, L. Erlbaum Assoc., Hilldale NJ, 1989.
  • Offir C., Are We Pushers for Our Own Children? in Psychology Today, December 1974.
  • Scarnoti R. An Outline of Hazardous Side Effects of Ritalin, Internation Journal of Addiction, 21, p 837-41, 1986.
  • Schrag P., Divoky D., The Myth of the Hyperactive Child, 1975
  • Spotts J & C., Use and Abuse of Amphetamine and its Substitutes, Nat. Institute of Drug Abuse, Rockville MD, 1978. U.S. Congress Federal Involvement in the Use of Behavior Modification Drugs [Ritalin] on Grammar School Children, Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 9-29-70.
 

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