“There is a Rule in Our House…”

Unmade BedIn my last post, Picky Eater, I stated that my mother seemed to have become a lot smarter by the time I was sixteen than when I was five.  Unfortunately for her children, she was not as easily manipulated as she gained more parenting experience (by the way-neither of my sisters, nor  my mother, called me about that post-whew).  Obviously, by this, I mean to say that my mother became very consistent in her discipline by not wavering once she doled it out.

By the time I was sixteen, we had ten people living under one roof (I’ll talk about that another time), so being consistent was very important to help make our household run smoothly.  We did not receive an allowance for doing what was expected.  My parents’ simply explained that it took everyone following the rules to make our home function smoothly.  Once in a while, they would take us to Pace’s Dairy Ann for Rainbows (anyone who grew up in Bountiful, Utah, knows this place) as a treat for contributing to the household.  Or, when we went on a vacation in the summer, they would tell us how much they appreciated what we did to contribute to the overall harmony in our very full home.

Part of the reality of growing up in our house is that there were very specific rules we were expected to follow.  One of the rules in our house was that every bed was made every morning-no exceptions, no excuses.  Generally, we understood that not following the rules was not an option.  However, every once in a while, one of us would decide that a specific rule didn’t apply to her.  When I was sixteen, I decided one day that I was exempt from the rule of making my bed.

A little context: the year I was sixteen, I was the Junior Class secretary and I was busy as one of the main people in charge of Junior Prom.  I got up every morning at 5:30 to be at school by 6:00 to dance.  After going to school all day, I worked at a daycare center.  When I was finished with the daycare, I either went to a guitar class, a dance class, or back to school to work on various junior class projects.  Often, I didn’t get home until around nine or ten o’clock at night.  That’s when I would start my homework.  I often would get to bed around midnight.  One night, after keeping this schedule for several weeks, I went to bed-understandably exhausted!  The next day, I decided I wasn’t going to make my bed.  I mean, really, no one was going to be in my room all day and I was sure my younger sister didn’t care if my bed wasn’t made.  After all, I was just going to get back in it that night, so why bother?  Does any of this sound familiar?

Obviously, in my state of exhaustion, I apparently forgot just who ran the household (and that it wasn’t me).  After doing all of the things I normally did in my jam-packed day, I went to get into bed at about 12:30 AM.  My mother met me at my bed with a tall glass of ice cold water from the refrigerator that was filled to about one inch from the top.  She held it over my bed and calmly and quietly said, “Jerilyn, there is a rule in our house that every bed is made every day.”  On the whole, I was a pretty well-behaved teenager, but that night I went nuts.  I yelled at her that I was tired and that it is a stupid rule and that “I’m not making my bed just so I can unmake it to get in it!”

My mother calmly tilted the glass of ice cold water just a little and quietly repeated, “Jerilyn, there is a rule in our house that every bed is made every day.”  This time I wasn’t nearly as loud or cocky, but I did continue to argue with her telling her it was “stupid to make my bed just so I can get in it.”  My mother again calmly tilted the glass of ice cold water until the water was almost coming out of the glass and quietly repeated, “Jerilyn, there is a rule in our house that every bed is made every day.”  Then she added this caveat, “You have to the count of 30 to get your bed made.” And she started to count about as fast as she could count.  I suddenly knew three things: 1) she wasn’t messing around 2) I was finished arguing and 3) I had better get my bed made before she hit 30 or that ice cold water would be all over my bed.  I knew these things because my brother tried not making his bed once, only he didn’t stop arguing.

When my mother got to the count of 28, my bed was made and I was standing there feeling like I had beaten the clock in a very important race.  She calmly lifted the glass upright, kissed me, and said, “Thank you for following the rules of our household.  It makes everything easier when everyone does their jobs.  I love you. Good Night.”  As she walked out of the room, I was very relieved that I had a dry bed to sleep in and that I had done what I was supposed to do and that it had made my mother happy.

What my mother clearly understood by the time I was sixteen (but that she was still learning when I was five) was the difference between what things were reinforcing versus punishing to me were more important than what things were reinforcing and punishing in her mind.  She calmly held her ground.  She gave me two very clear choices (both of which with she could live).  She made them time bound (read more in It’s About Time).  She meant what she said and said what she meant.  Hmm, maybe she should be called The No Bull Mother.

Summer break is coming, so this gives everyone time to think about how you are doling out reinforcements and punishments in your classroom and in your home.  Is there anything can you do to be more effective?  I believe we all can improve in this area (me included).

I usually write once in July and once in August while I’m on the summer break; however, I’m getting married on August 8th to my teenage sweetheart of 34 years ago, so I am going to be busy with the finishing of my wedding dress and with all of the final preparations for our BIG day!

I’ll be back the first week of September to write about the importance of establishing a routine.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled summer,

Ms. Brown

Posted in General | Comments Off

Picky Eater

This past week in my Autism Information post, I said I would tell you the Little girl and her snackstory about when I was about five-years old and would have to sit at the Sunday dinner table until I “ate everything on my plate.” Now, I tell this story even though I know that my mother and my siblings read this blog. However, I believe the lesson is important enough to go ahead and take the risk of my sisters ‘finding me out’ and tell it anyway. My mother has already heard my side of the story when I did a public speaking engagement which she attended, so no worries there (a smile and a wink).

As a child, I was a very picky eater and I ate very little in both variety and amount of food. Every Sunday my mother would make a great big meal. I now realize it was a beautiful feat: roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, homemade rolls, a vegetable, and dessert for six of us. Needless to say, there were a lot of dishes.

Every Sunday, food would be put on my plate that I didn’t chose and that I wouldn’t eat. The meal commenced and I would push my food around, pick at it, and eat very little. At the end of the meal, everyone would be excused and my mother would say to me, “Jerilyn, you will have to sit here until you eat everything on your plate.” Does that sound familiar? This strategy, while often used, almost never works. And, it definitely did not work with me. After all, if I didn’t eat the food when it was warm, I certainly was not going to eat it when it is cold.

Luckily, I have a very active imagination and I am able to entertain myself for hours with nothing but my mind. So, sitting there for 2-3 hours was nothing to me. Eventually, my mother would walk back in the kitchen and in an exasperated voice, tell me to give the food to the dog, put my dishes in the sink, and go play. Okay.

This happened every Sunday for months. There were three general reasons for this. One, I was perfectly happy to sit there and entertain myself in my mind. Two, I knew my mother would eventually give in and release me-I would win. And finally (this is the most important reason, and the one where my sisters might be calling me up to complain that, once again, I was the spoiled one), for the first 45-60 minutes, I watched my two sisters across the kitchen doing all the dishes and complaining the whole time that I never had to do anything. Yes! That was extremely reinforcing to me!! This one thing alone was most likely the reason I continued to do what I did. I loved that they had to do the work and that they let me know how much it upset them.

While those were three general reasons I didn’t bother to eat everything on my plate, they all actually come down to one specific reason: in my mind I wasn’t being punished. In fact, I was being highly reinforced to continue my behavior.

This is the lesson then: what we think, as adults, is punishing or reinforcing to a child may not be at all. If the inappropriate behavior continues, then we have not found the stimulus that is reinforcing enough or punishing enough to get the appropriate behavior to be exhibited. It is as simple and as difficult as that.

I have been fortunate enough to find the perfect thing for many students without even trying and have spent months struggling to find it for others. In the three posts, “That’s a Swear Word?”, Swearing vs. Music, and Soaring to the Top, you can read an example of when I spent months looking for the perfect solution, and the results when I finally found it. Solutions come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes surprise me. I am constantly listening and looking for ideas and cues the kids may give me. Of course, I ask them what they like and I’ve had them fill out all sorts of reinforcement questionnaires. But, as most teachers can tell you, they don’t always work.

If, when everyone in my family was excused, my mother would have had me dump my food and would have released my sisters by telling them that I would be cleaning everything up and that they could go play (and then not fed me again until the next meal), I would have responded very differently. I believe it would have taken only a few times (if that) before I would be eating and doing what I was supposed to do instead of manipulating my mother.

Believe me, she got a lot smarter by the time I was sixteen. Come back next week and read about that story and how she got me to do exactly what she expected.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled day,

Ms. Brown

P. S. One of my subscribers is hosting a Golf Tournament to help raise money for a garden that she and her special education students are involved in.  Gardening is a wonderful way to help students and she has seen some amazing results.  This is a wonderful opportunity for those of you who live in the Las Vegas area, or for anyone who doesn’t and would like to spend the last weekend in May in Las Vegas golfing and helping a great cause.  For more information, please go to the Calendar and Events tab of our website.

Posted in General | Comments Off

Autism Information

Last week, my friend and colleague, Janet, shared some great insight and aAutism Information lot of information about having a son with autism and about autism in general.  This week, she has more important information for teachers and parents alike.  I’ll be putting all this information in the website under the “For Parents” and “For Teachers” tabs, along with some wonderful resources that Janet has gathered throughout her son’s life.

People with an ASD often have one or more of the following co-morbid conditions or symptoms of these conditions as well:

  • SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder)
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Anxiety disorders (OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, etc.)
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Epilepsy/Seizures
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalcula
  • Hyperlexia
  • Hypotonia
  • Synaethesia
  • Alexithymia
  • Apraxia
  • Echololia
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Nenverbal Learnind Disorder
  • Mitochondral Disease
  • Metabolic Disorders
  • Thyroid Disorders
  • Sleep Disturbance / Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal Disorder / Chrnic Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Celiac Disease
  • Food / Enironmental Allergies
  • Strabismus

Everyone is different! Whether someone has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), another disorder, or no disorder, we are all unique. We look differently. We act differently. We think differently. We have different likes and dislikes. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

How can you help?

  • Be aware that those who seem “different”  might have an ASD (many are even undiagnosed)
  • Be accepting of differences (remember not everything has to be done our way)
  • Be patient with them (yes, I know this is asking a lot)
  • Be understanding (try to put yourself in their positions)
  • Be supportive of their efforts and encourage them to achieve academically and socially, while at the same time understanding their limitations
  • Be kind and respectful to all (you never know who may have this, or some other, disability, what they deal with at home, or what kind of a day they are having…a little kindness goes a long way!)
  • Reach out to those who don’t seem to fit in, include those who are different, and encourage others to do so also
  • Understand that they want to make friends and be good friends to others
  • Explain things in another way if they don’t seem to get it
  • Talk to people more literally if they seem to have an ASD (say exactly what you mean)
  • Tell them, in a respectful way, if they’ve done or said anything to upset or offend you (be specific and clear), they might not realize it
  • When you feel the need to discipline a child that you don’t know or make a comment to a parent you don’t know, remember  that it can be done with kindness, respect, and concern for the child.  Asking questions is much more welcomed than parenting advice or scolding children (they may have an ASD which could explain the meltdowns due to their senses being overwhelmed in different or stressful situations)
  • Be sensitive to their reactions and realize there might be a reason why they respond the way they do

I want to thank Janet for her valuable insight and information.  Even though many of the co-morbid conditions or symptoms of these conditions may sound overwhelmingly ‘clinical;’ many can be found and further explained (along with other related information) in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5).  If you don’t find the information you are looking for in the DSM-5, please consult with your physician and/or go to the “For Parents” and “For Teachers” tabs of this website to view the links that Janet has graciously shared with me.  Give me about four or five days to get them up.  In the meantime, here is Janet’s website: http://asdawareness.weebly.com/

Next week, I’ll be sharing a story of when I was 5 years old and would have to sit at the Sunday dinner table until “you eat everything on your plate.”  Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled,

Ms. Brown

Posted in General | Comments Off

My Son has Autism

Since April is Autism Awareness month, I have asked my friend and colleague, Janet Portrait of Hispanic mother and son outdoors, to share some information with you about what she has learned by being the mother of a child with autism.

“My son, Jeremiah, an eighth grade student, has Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. Basically, it is a high-functioning form of autism.

People with Asperger’s don’t have a certain look about them. They don’t wear signs saying they have it, and you probably wouldn’t pick them out of a crowd, unless you were more familiar with the signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. People with Asperger’s Syndrome can be highly intelligent; however, the general public is often unaware of the fact that this does not make them as highly intelligent socially, or with good communication skills.  One in sixty-eight people (on school campuses, at the grocery store, at the park, etc.) have an autism spectrum disorder. When interacting with people that you do not personally know, please be aware this, especially if you feel the need to discipline them.  Due to their lack of appropriate social and communication skills, they may seem insubordinate at first glance, as if they are being defiant. But, there is a difference between won’t (refusal and unwillingness to do something), and can’t (inability to do what you expect) due to this disability.  Often, they look the same.”

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

“Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder. It affects the way you think and the way you understand the world. Basically, the brain doesn’t process information in the same way as a person who doesn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome. People with Asperger’s Syndrome think differently than you or I do.  Most people with this diagnoses are noticed as being “different” or “eccentric.”  Others often don’t realize they have a disorder because the person with Asperger’s Syndrome is not impaired in basic intelligence.”

“Life can be very stressful for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, because they have to work very hard to understand others who think so differently and try to fit in with them. Many things that come naturally to a neurotypical person have to be learned by a person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Everyone with Asperger’s or any other Autism Spectrum Disorder is unique, but will have some similar symptoms.  These symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty socializing (understanding, relating to, and getting along well or connecting with others); are often “loners”, and don’t have many or any friends
  • Difficulty recognizing verbal and nonverbal cues (facial expression, eyes, body language, tone of voice), which makes it hard to know what others are thinking and feeling
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Difficulty communicating thoughts and feelings (this often affects their ability to write, and they often do not recognize the importance of communicating something)
  • The inability to see the “large picture” while they focus on the irrelevant details
  • Difficulty identifying and sequencing the parts of a task
  • Thinking literally (difficulties understanding figurative language)
  • Being very visual thinkers (often thinking in pictures)
  • Having sensory issues; may have unusual reactions to the way things look, sound, smell, taste, or feel because their senses are overwhelmed  (people with autism can hear up to eight times louder than we do)
  • Not being flexible in thinking (they can get “stuck” on a thought, difficulties understanding someone else’s point of view)
  • Giving answers that seem unrelated to questions
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Being more comfortable with routines; may be upset by minor changes
  • Having limited and/or obsessive interests
  • Flapping their hands, rocking their body, spinning in circles, etc. (this is called “stimming”, and they use it to calm themselves down in stressful or overstimulating situations)
  • Experiencing meltdowns or rages in response to very stressful situations, because they don’t know how to handle emotions due to limited social and communication  skills
  • Appearing defiant at times, but are usually incapable of responding as we expect in these situations

It’s not all bad, people with Asperger’s also tend to:

  • Have above average intelligence
  • Be critical and individual thinkers (often think outside the box)
  • Have an easier time processing factual information
  • Know a lot about certain areas of interest and can be very successful in those areas
  • Hard working
  • Honest”

I really appreciate Janet being willing to share so much information with us.  Here are two excellent books to consider for your library.  Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition by Ellen Notbohm, mother of a child with autism.  And, Temple Grandin’s book, Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism (Vintage).  Temple Grandin is an amazing person who is an innovator, author, activist, and autistic.  Be sure to check out the amazing movie about her inspiring life, starring Claire Danes.

Janet has more to share next week, including some valuable resources. So, be sure to stop by to get even more information about autism.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown


Posted in General | Comments Off

Autism Awareness Month

Many of you have probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging as of late.   My website Autism Awarenesshad a technical issue that caused several subscribers to not receive my posts.  It took us a few weeks to realize this was going on and a few months to fix the problem.  On the upside, none of you was ever in danger with the issue.  On the downside, when it was fixed, several subscribers’ names were lost.  So, if you know of someone who read my blog, please let them know we’re back and please have them subscribe again.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.   Of course, feel free to tell others about us, too.  Be sure to check out any past posts you may have missed.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and with the new criteria for autism in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5), we will be seeing and interacting with more people diagnosed with autism as we continue down life’s path.  Autism once affected 1 in 88 people; however, it now affects 1 in 68.  This is a significant change.

Due to this change, the book, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition, by Ellen Notbolm, is even more timely than ever before.  She describes “ten characteristics that help illuminate-not define children with autism.”  It is an exceptional book and I highly recommend it for everyone working with children who have autism.

Here are five of the ten characteristics from the book:

  • I am a whole child.
  • My senses are out of sync.
  • There are things I won’t do and things I can’t do.
  • I am a concrete thinker. I interpret language literally.
  • Listen to all the ways I’m trying to communicate.

Get the book and read all the terrific detail and information Ms. Notbohm shares.  It is worth it.  Next week, I’ll be sharing a friend’s story-she is the mother of a son who has autism.  She gives great information and insight into being the parent of a child with autism, so you won’t want to miss it.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown


Posted in General | Comments Off

Who is in Control? Part Two

Who's in Control-Part 2Two weeks ago this was posted, but only went to a few subscribers.  An update to the software was supposed to fix it so it goes to all of you.  I feel the post is important enough to resend out so everyone can have the opportunity to read it.

In my post “Who is in Control-Part One”, I told a story about a little boy who had figured out if he had a tantrum he could get his mother to give him a candy bar to stop his tantrum.  Eventually, with help, his mother figured out how to set up the situation differently and not have him tantrum.  One subscriber wrote me and questioned the situation, asking me, “What is the difference if she offers the reward in the store- the car or even at home for that matter? The child still understands – I am going to get my way, tantrum or not. I want a candy bar when we go to the store and I’m going to get one.”  I love that a subscriber brought to my attention that I left some things out of that post. I apologize.  Sometimes, I think I have made clear in the post what’s in my head.  Thanks Mark, for bringing up some valid points.

Mark’s question helped me realize that I need to explain why the child, in the end, wasn’t in control of the situation, but was, eventually, able to be in control of himself.  His mother agreed with me that it was better never to have him tantrum in the first place, so she started to tell him, prior to going into the store, that he could EARN a candy bar if he behaved and didn’t tantrum.  If he did tantrum, then no candy bar.  Instead of being given a reward for stopping a behavior he shouldn’t have been doing in the first place, which helps to teach entitlement (The “Principal” of Entitlement), he had to EARN the candy bar by exhibiting the correct behavior from the beginning.  He was told by his mother what her expectation was of him before he was able to earn the reward.  She was now being proactive by setting the parameters ahead of time.  Before this intervention, his mother reacted after the unwanted behavior occurred, which completely placed the young boy in charge.

Mark also brought up the point, “Does the mom even want the child to have a candy bar every time they go to the store?”  He further stated that he never promised his kids a treat every time they went shopping and they never had a tantrum.  Mark understood it was his responsibility “to instill in my child an understanding about choices, possibilities, options and compromises in any given situation so we did not have to resort to an exhausting power struggle to exert control.”  My response is, “Yippee! That is exactly what you should be doing!”  Unfortunately, the mother of this young boy sabotaged herself right off the bat by offering to give him something he hadn’t truly earned; creating that sense of entitlement.  We, then, had to go through the backdoor, so to speak, for remediation of the problem.  After her son stopped having tantrums, she was able to prolong giving the treat, make it a smaller treat, switch the reward to fun- time back home, and eventually, do away with all rewards except verbal praise.  People, young and old, like knowing what the expectations are so they can see they are being successful–and they are happier with themselves, too.  This young boy was able to show much better control of himself and was a much happier child as a result of his truly gaining control of his own behavior instead of gaining control of his mother’s behavior.

I hope this helps to clarify this concept a little more.  Come back in two weeks, when I will be telling a story of how my mother thought she was punishing me, when in fact, I was being highly rewarded.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Who is in Control?

Big LollipopLast week, I wrote about earning a trip to Hawaii or a trip to the corner market (A Trip to Hawaii).  As I stated then, most of us will be happy with the trip to the corner market.  Recently, a colleague was sharing something he had come up with to help a student focus-He simply gave him a job to do.  It was a small thing, but this child now feels important and is working much better.  The teacher is in control of the classroom, while the child is in control of himself.

While at a dinner party awhile back, I met a lady who heard what I do for a living.  She immediately started to tell me about how well she is able to control her child and mentioned how she makes her child earn rewards.  Intrigued, and always wanting to learn about how others reward behavior, I queried her for more details. It seemed her child used to throw a tantrum every time they went to the store (a common behavior among children).  Of course, this behavior was very embarrassing to the parent.  So, she figured out that whenever he would tantrum if she told to him, “I’ll buy you a candy bar if you will stop your tantrum,” he would, in fact, stop.  I listened politely, smiled, and nodded my head; but when I wasn’t as enthusiastic as she thought I should be, she questioned me.  I mentioned that she told me she was controlling her child, when in fact, it is the other way around.  She got upset with me and asked me how that could be possible?  After all, didn’t I hear what she said?  I apologized and told her that perhaps I misunderstood what she said.  To clarify, I asked her if her goal was to have her son stop having a tantrum while in a store and she said, “Yes.”  I explained that she was rewarding him to tantrum.  He was having a tantrum knowing that she would reward him to stop.  He was in control of the situation.  Then, I asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to never have him start in the first place?”  She agreed, but said that was impossible.  She explained that I obviously don’t know her son.  I agreed with her that I didn’t know her son, but I did know about behavior reinforcement.  I went on to explain that a lot of people think exactly like she does.  “But, what if,” I suggested, “before you get out of the car, you told him he could have a candy bar at the end of the shopping trip if he was a good boy, and didn’t tantrum at all?”  It took some more explaining, but eventually, she understood the concept.  Several months later, I saw her again at another dinner party and she was so happy to tell me that she was able to go shopping much more often without her son having a tantrum and that she now felt much more in control

By stating the desired behavior before the shopping trip, this parent was able to clearly and calmly tell her son what her expectations were in order for him to earn a treat.  She was able to stick to her expectation and her son was able to gain better control of himself.  By doing this, the mother was showing that she made the rules, not her son.  She was now taking a pro-active, assertive stance instead of a reactive, aggressive stance. 

This week, I challenge you to take a proactive stance and tell your students, children, spouses, friends and colleagues exactly your expectations, in a calm and clear manner, before the activity.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown


Posted in General | Leave a comment

A Trip to Hawaii

Two weeks ago, I discussed a little bit about why I believe children and adults alike have a sense of entitlement.  Let me reiterate, that I believe this sense stems from being given too many things, instead of earning them.  I am always amazed at the things that I hear that people believe they have the ‘right’ to; big things like the right to a job, to a home, to a car, to things much smaller like butting in line, interrupting someone, and taking a pencil off of someone else’s desk.

A Trip to Hawaii

Years ago, I lived with an elderly woman by the name of Rosa Belle, who often said to me that to work is a privilege.  Even though I had never consciously said those words out loud, I realized she was absolutely right.  It started me thinking of other sorts of things that were privileges that people confused with rights.  I believe this is such a valuable lesson that I spend two weeks at the beginning of every school year teaching the differences in my classroom (Laying the Groundwork: Rights vs. Privileges), and then repeating them throughout the rest of the year.

When I consult with adults about these concepts, I often start to see the proverbial light bulb go off in their heads as they begin to understand how different the two are, and how much more impactful they can be with children by having the children earn rewards, which consequently, instills a sense of pride, instead of simply giving things away, which instills the attitude of entitlement.

I watch adults give cell phones to children and many of those same children think it is their right to have it.  It would be so much more impactful to the child if the phone was earned first, and then had specific expectations they had to adhere to in order to maintain its possession.  Electronic games, hanging out with friends, or getting something at the store are other examples.

Another way to instill entitlement is to have the reward bigger than the deed was that earned it in the first place.  I call this, “giving away a trip to Hawaii when a trip to the corner market would suffice.”  The Troll Doll pencil that I wrote about two weeks ago (The “Principal” of Entitlement), is a perfect example of this concept.  Cloie had to earn it and was thrilled with her accomplishment when she did.  Of course, if I would have given her a $25 gift card she would have been thrilled, too.  However, a $25 gift card wasn’t necessary, just a $1.25 pencil.  ­­­­­­­­

Generally, most of us are excited and happy to be acknowledged and to have a sense of pride that we accomplished something.  I remember a practicum I was doing while I was in college.  I worked with a group of preschool kids who had behavioral and emotional issues.  One day, during the hour I was there, the teacher walked by, patted me on my left front shoulder and smiled at me.  I smiled back and felt good about what I was doing.  Later in the day, one of my officemates mentioned the sticker on my left front shoulder.  It said, “Great job!”  That was it, “Great job!”  Yet, 29 years later, I still remember the feeling I got when I realized it came from that teacher.  The next day and forward, I worked even harder to please the teacher.  I was 21 years old and a sticker made me feel proud of what I was doing!  I didn’t need a trip to Hawaii; a trip to the corner store was enough.

In the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System, used in my classroom, nothing is just given to the students.  Everything is earned.  If I “give” something to my students, there is a reason; their homework was returned on time, their point sheet (Time Card) was signed by every teacher, every student gave their best effort while learning something difficult.  I always tell them why they are getting the reward; otherwise there is no connection as to why.  I think about the behaviors I want to see and then I reward the students who exhibit them.  Examples of what students can earn are; a mini-candy bar, stickers, minutes of free time, bonus pay, a high-five.

Are you “giving away” the trip to Hawaii when your children would be just as happy to earn a trip to the corner store?

Come back next, when I’ll be asking, “Who’s in charge, the adult or the child?”

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  This is the last week of our FREE “No Bull Teacher” polo shirt give-away. Congratulations to all our winners.  Check your email to see if you are the lucky last one!!

Posted in General | Leave a comment

A Plea From a Teacher

Plea from a TeacherTwo days ago, a 12 year old boy walked into his middle school in Sparks, Nevada and shot two students, a teacher and then, himself.  We all ask the question every time this happens, “WHY?”  In fact, last night I was asked, “Why does this seem to be happening more now than before?”  If any of us had the answer to that question, we might also have some idea as to the solution.  However, the answer, and therefore, the solution, are multi-faceted, involving many reasons, people and agency’s.

Today, I received the following plea from one of the teachers who teaches across the hallway from where Mr. Landsberry taught before he was shot and killed.  Please read her plea and help her anyway you can.  Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or simply a member of the community, we  can each help in some way-lesson plans, letters, prayers…

Here is the letter she wrote to her girlfriend, who works in the same district in which I work.


Hey Diane – Yep, it was Sparks Middle School, my school.  It has been devastating.  Just trying to function through the nonsense of what actually happened.  At this point, I’m just overwhelmed with fear and grief.  Not sure how to move forward.  I’ve made a posting on my Facebook for everyone that has reached out, I’ll attach it below, if you’d like to help, I’d appreciate it.

Here is my Facebook posting, please help if you have time.

So, after a reflective conversation with my family, we discussed my options for Monday. What to “teach” on Monday. Mr. Landsberry and I were friends. He was my classroom neighbor. We walked in to each others classroom, messed with kids and laughed EVERY DAY. His room is right across the hall. How am I going to help my kids, our kids, attend school? My fingers are shaking as I type this, how can I really help them to move on?

My nieces, Elizabeth and Stacy had some really great ideas, one of which was to focus on heroes. Mr. Landsberry was a hero, truly. Not just on Monday, but so many hours, days and months before that. On Monday, he saved my kids. Our kids. Last week he probably saved someone else. He was a hero.

So, I’ve been working on lessons, researching heroes and I just can’t seem to process what I need to do. So I need help. All of my teacher friends, would you build me a lesson on heroes? I’ve looked at lyrics, articles, teen ink and found a plethora of ideas, but I’m not in lesson writing mode. Will you help me? Please write me a lesson to share with my staff, list what resources I need, what books I can read, what songs I need Stacy to download for me.  Help me move my kids forward, focusing on something that matters, our heroes. The people we see everyday that truly represent the courage, leadership and kindness of Mr. Landsberry.

I’m sure my colleagues are feeling the same way and thinking about what to do on Monday is daunting. We’re going to need help and I couldn’t think of a more resourceful population than my amazing teacher friends. Please help me, help my kids. Send your lessons to bhbarker@washoeschools.net

Send this message on to your teacher friends, we have a lot of work to do, and I need all hands on deck.

Love to all of you, I truly appreciate your support. B

Barbara Surritte-Barker, M.Ed., NBCT
Sparks Middle School


There you have it.  A touching letter from a teacher who survived physically, and now is trying to figure out how to survive emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  I’m sending my condolences to Mr. Landsberry’s family and friends, along with positive thoughts and energy to the two students in the hospital, to Barbara and to all those affected in the Sparks, Nevada community.  I don’t want to forget the troubled young boy’s family and friends, either.

Let us remember, our responsibility to one another is great as we strive to live peacefully in a troubled world,

Ms. Brown

Posted in General | Leave a comment


Dog With Birthday Party Hat and BalloonsOne year ago today, I started this website and blog.  I hope it has been enlightening, inspiring and fun.  There is still much to do and far to go, but I wanted to say thank you for your support  in making our first year a BIG success!

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

Posted in General | Leave a comment