Challenges in Supporting Sam's Behavior

Currently, there have been no seizures observed at school. However, there has been slight eye twitching/rolling and minor muscle jerks on the shoulders. These occurrences tend to happen when Sam is tired, overwhelmed by noise, faced with too many choices, or feeling anxious. Apart from his medical condition, which may have contributed to his difficult behavior initially, Sam is also dealing with other issues. These include impulse control, joining groups, managing anger, regulating emotions, and showing empathy. Teachers are currently assisting him in addressing these challenges.

During the past four months, I have been involved in or witnessed the following situations while working with Sam:

1. In the quiet time of the aftercare program, which starts at 1:30pm, Sam enjoys playing with legos, especially with lego-people. He often builds them up and energetically takes them apart, referring to them as "the bad guys" and expressing his need to fight them. I discussed Sam's interest in the bad guys with his mother, and she assured me that he does not watch TV and she is unaware of its origin.

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Whenever Sam plays with his lego-people, he becomes very loud and starts throwing legos everywhere, which ends up disturbing the other children. The teacher attempts to calm Sam down by asking about his lego-people and complimenting his building skills. The teacher even offers to help him fix them, comparing it to a surgeon assisting in recovery from an injury. Unfortunately, this only worsens the situation as Sam becomes even more uncontrollable, throwing legos all over and bumping into other kids.

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The only way we managed to resolve the situation was by announcing clean-up time, assisting Sam in picking up the legos, and then taking him outside to play.

This is the case when positive reinforcement is ineffective in reversing Sam's behavior and actually has the opposite effect (Ch. 9, pp. 151-153). The reason for this may be that Sam lacks sufficient positive attention at home and is more accustomed to negative attention. However, it is important to recognize that Sam requires even more encouragement, not less, from adults. Through our trust, respect, and care for him, he will learn to take care of himself. We must have faith in Sam's potential for success and focus on what he is capable of rather than what he cannot do.

To build his confidence, it is important to acknowledge and create positive moments with him, so that he becomes less anxious when he behaves appropriately. While playing in the sand-box, Sam is given a five minute warning before clean-up by the teacher. Despite this, he continues playing but his behavior turns into throwing sand around energetically. Some children voice their concerns and the teacher intervenes, redirecting Sam towards a more constructive play. Sam complies initially but as soon as the teacher announces clean-up, he immediately stands up and starts pushing the boy beside him.

Sam frequently gets into trouble for multiple reasons such as not listening, disregarding directions, refusing to help, destroying another child's sand creation, and even spitting at someone. As a result, he is the last child to enter the classroom and has an angry and tense expression on his face. It became clear to me that in order to assist Sam, I must comprehend the sources of his challenging behavior. I noticed that while he enjoys both indoor and outdoor activities, it is during transitions that he struggles the most, regardless of how much advance notice he receives (Ch. 7, p. 115).

Teachers implemented strategies to ease transitions for Sam (Ch. 7, p. 116). One approach involved creating a picture schedule to aid in routine recollection and comprehension. Additionally, Sam was assigned the role of door holder during transitions. Recognizing Sam's current interest in legos, the importance of encouraging play and actively participating alongside him, particularly in his role as commander of the lego superheroes, became apparent (Ch. 7, p. 119). The objective was to save the world from the "bad guys," with each item picked up during clean-up reducing the number of "bad guys" that would threaten them.

Despite its unconventional nature, this peculiar logic has proven successful on a few occasions. I make an effort to avoid using the term "bad guys" excessively, yet it seems to resonate with Sam in some way and serves as a motivation for him to do what is right. Three of Sam's friends are playing with him in the yard, and it's time to tidy up. They are instructed to each pick up three items from the sand-box and place them in the storage bin. The children diligently go about their task, congregating in one spot, occasionally accidentally bumping into one another. This seemingly mundane scenario appears to have unsettled Sam, prompting him to grab one of the small plastic toys and wave it in the air.

When I remind Sam to pick up two more things, he continues to wave his arms like a propeller and at some point lets go of the toy. It crashes into my arm with enough force to guarantee a bruise. I let out a cry of surprise. I do realize that Sam did not intentionally hurt me, but it is still painful and he is now looking at me with a worried expression. I hear his quiet "sorry". My initial reaction towards him is to ask, "Why did you do it?" Even though it is a silly question! He smiles and begins running circles around me. I attempt to catch him, but he is fast. Eventually, when I do catch him, he falls to the ground and throws a tantrum. At one point, he yells at me, "I don't like you!" (I remember Sam saying this to another teacher once before and her response was, "You don't have to like me, but you have to listen to me because I'm your teacher.") To calm Sam down, I need to calm myself down first. I lower myself to Sam's level and say as calmly as possible, "I understand that you didn't mean for that to happen. I know you are sorry. Now, you have a choice: either put the toys away and line up at the door, or I will help you do it and take you inside because I have to go and can't leave you here alone." Then, I turn towards Sam's friends who are observing our interaction with curiosity and say, "Please show Sam more toys to put away." With a little more patience and persuasion, Sam eventually calms down and joins the group. I praise him for cooperating. This was a failure of crowd control on my part (Ch.7, p.107).On the following day, I organized the children into smaller groups while they were cleaning up, ensuring that there were no more than five children in each cleanup area. I also took the time to reflect on why I nearly lost control when I was hit by a toy. It brought back memories of difficult situations I experienced with my peers during childhood. In order to remain calm and composed, I realized that I must let go of those memories and not allow them to affect me. It is essential for me to prevent any child from provoking a negative reaction from me. Understanding my emotions and their origins is crucial in this process.

Sam needs reassurance that I will not react negatively to his intense emotions and that I will not punish, threaten, or withdraw from him (Ch. 5, pp. 59-60). Additionally, I should focus on using an "options statement" to offer Sam alternative choices (Ch. 10, p. 169) as suggested by the WEVAS method (p. 169). In this specific situation, our group is leaving the large playground where we occasionally bring the children for special events. Today, we were invited by our "big buddies" from the second grade. The children had a great time and are reluctant to leave. As we line up to go back to school, Sam throws a tantrum. I remain behind with him while the other teachers lead the rest of the group back to the classroom.

On the second level of agitation according to (P. 167, WEVAS), I try to reason with Sam and give him a choice to walk with me or with another teacher. Despite mentioning his mother waiting for him back in the classroom, Sam shows no reaction. I should have redirected Sam positively, but he deeply affects my emotions and mentioning his mother is the only incentive I can think of. However, it does not work. As a final attempt, I hold Sam's hand but he resists and falls to the ground.

If it weren't for me catching him by his both arms, he would have hit himself on the concrete pavement. However, despite my efforts, he keeps falling down with an angry and determined look on his face. I am forced to release him, take a step back, and leave. After walking a few steps, I turn back and notice Sam still in the same position, observing me. This leaves me uncertain about what course of action to take. I desperately need some sort of divine intervention. Thankfully, another teacher arrives and informs Sam that his mother is waiting indoors for him. Miraculously, this time it works: Sam stands up and rushes towards the door.

Sam's uncooperative behavior may have been caused by fatigue and hunger. It would be beneficial to offer him alternative options for quiet play or rest in case he needs them in the future. Additionally, Fridays sometimes bring anxiety about the upcoming weekend. Sam attends preschool from 9:00am to 6:00pm every day and no longer takes naps. Last year, nap time was a struggle, requiring a significant effort to put him to sleep. As a result, by Friday, Sam is usually exhausted from school.

During the teachers' meeting the following morning, we discussed the situation and decided to speak with Sam's parents about the option of allowing Sam to leave the center earlier on specific days. After the parents agreed, Sam began leaving three hours earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays, resulting in a slight improvement in his behavior. The next morning, when he comes to school, he appears more relaxed, which we believe is a result of spending one-on-one time with his babysitter. We are also considering if giving Sam more choices might help him feel more in control or if he struggles with making decisions on his own. If necessary, I will work on guiding Sam towards expressing his emotions in positive ways. During snack time, the children gather at the table to share fruit, crackers, and cheese. I notice that Sam is engaging in inappropriate language by calling another boy a "poo-poo head," which triggers a series of potty talk among the children at the table. I understand that I cannot simply ignore this behavior, especially since it is affecting the other children (one girl even complained to me about Sam's use of "potty words"). To address this, I employ a questioning technique (WEVAS, p.67) to make Sam reflect on his actions. I start by asking him, "Sam, what are you doing?" He looks at me and smiles. Then I remind him of the expectations during mealtime by asking, "What is the rule regarding potty talk?" He responds with a clear "No." However, as soon as I divert my attention, the inappropriate behavior continues and intensifies with each passing minute.A different teacher attempts to intervene by informing Sam that discussions about bodily functions should only occur in the bathroom. In an attempt to address the situation, the teacher sends Sam to the bathroom, along with his plate. However, this action has no impact on Sam or his friends, as they insist on also being sent to the bathroom. Evidently, they consider it merely a game.

The cycle is finally broken when another teacher arrives with three 2-year-olds. She warns Sam that her children will get into trouble if they hear his bad language and imitate him. Sam ponders this for a moment and then asks the teacher why the kids will face consequences. She explains once more, which seems to appease Sam enough that he refrains from using inappropriate language for the remainder of the day. After the incident, I consulted with an experienced teacher who recommended teaching the kids as a group how to handle inappropriate behavior by simply ignoring it.

We conducted group discussions and role playing in the classroom to reinforce social skills in real-life interactions (Ch. 8, p. 133). Upon returning to the classroom, the other teacher and I engaged the children in circle time to discuss potty talk and appropriate reactions. To illustrate this, we performed a puppet show depicting a scene at the snack table. Additionally, we encouraged the children to turn to the person next to them and express their dislikes with statements like "I don't like it when you..." followed by something positive such as "I like it when you share toys with me."

In the classroom, we discussed the rules and established guidelines such as being kind, showing respect for others and the environment. During the lesson, we empowered the children to use appropriate language when feeling frustrated with Sam's inappropriate behavior, while also setting boundaries for Sam. The following day, Sam attempted to repeat his previous "success" by using the same vulgar language at the snack table in an attempt to make everyone laugh. I reminded the children to ignore this behavior and redirected their attention to another topic. However, a girl sitting next to Sam approached me, expressing her complaint about Sam's continued use of the same offensive words.

I tell her: “Did you like it?” She shakes her head. “Then you need to tell him that.” The girl returns to her seat, looks at Sam, and says loudly: “I don’t like it!” Sam appears confused for a moment. The girl adds: “We don’t use potty talk at the table.” Sam starts eating his snack without responding, signaling the end of the potty talk. This demonstrates the importance of having socially competent peers who can serve as role models and reinforce appropriate behavior, as stated in Chapter 132 of the book. Learning social skills is crucial for Sam to interact well with others (Chapter 8, page 130). To proactively teach these skills, I searched for children’s books on good table manners and found a book titled "Manners" by Aliki. I shared this book with the children. It contained various innovative snippets, such as role-playing and fun cartoons, which helped break up the routine. The kids enjoyed themselves so much that they didn't even realize they were learning something. At this moment, it is mid-day circle time and the children are seated on the carpet, listening to a story.

Sam refuses to join the circle, opting instead to continue playing with legos. Despite multiple attempts to encourage Sam to join the other children, the teachers offer him a choice: he can either sit in the circle or stay outside of it, but he must leave the legos behind. Sam quickly agrees to join the circle but proceeds to distract his peers by talking to them and standing in front of them when he wants a closer look at a picture. Despite being asked to stop, Sam continues with his disruptive behavior. Eventually, the teachers remove Sam from the circle temporarily to allow him time to calm down.

In this passage, we address the issue of impulse control (Ch. 8, p. 136), specifically discussing Sam's struggle to adjust his behavior to different situations. It may take him a while to understand the concept of sitting quietly during circle time or waiting for his turn to speak. Instead of forcing Sam to join the circle when he was not ready, it would have been better to allow him to play with legos in a designated area until he was prepared to participate successfully in story-time, as certain group activities pose challenges for Sam (Ch. 7, p. 114-115). 8.

Sam enjoys playing with sand but sometimes becomes too enthusiastic while shoveling, resulting in accidentally hitting another child nearby. The child starts crying, and I intervene by calling Sam out of the sandbox to have a conversation with him. Initially, Sam tries to run away, but I manage to persuade him to approach me. Meanwhile, the injured child remains by my side, tearfully upset. Sam appears anxious as I explain that he has harmed a friend and inquire about the appropriate course of action. Without hesitation, Sam promptly apologizes. Another teacher inquires about his motivations, and Sam admits that he "was not thinking with his head".

Teaching Sam emotional regulation and empathy is one of the skills we need to focus on (Ch. 8, p. 135-136). By discussing and encouraging Sam to talk about his own feelings, he can learn to understand and label them. To help with this, we read books like "The feelings book" by Lynda Madison and "Feelings" by Aliki, engage in discussions and puppet plays about feelings, and support Sam through challenging situations. For example, when Sam is building a sandcastle in the sandbox and other children want to join in, we coach him through the situation so he can effectively communicate his preference to build alone.

He tells everyone: "This is my castle, I am building it. Nobody can touch it." The children take shovels and begin constructing their own nearby. After some time, Sam leaves his castle and shovel behind to see what the children have created. Upon returning to his castle, he discovers that someone else is using his shovel and adding something to the wall of his castle. Sam becomes extremely upset and cannot be comforted. He demands to have his shovel returned. The teacher clarifies to Sam that his name is not written on the shovel and it can be used by other children as well.

After multiple attempts to reason with him, the teacher finds an alternative activity for Sam. The boy becomes occupied with playing with water and sand at the opposite side of the sandbox. Upon noticing a familiar shovel, he quickly grabs it and hides it under a nearby bench. When questioned about his actions, Sam explains that he hid the shovel to prevent others from taking it. Sharing toys proves to be challenging for Sam, thus requiring us to teach him positive methods of doing so. In a meeting, we collectively brainstormed strategies and devised a role-playing activity for the children centered around sharing (Ch. , p. 133). Additionally, I discovered two excellent books on sharing, titled "Who am I?" and "The Sun and the Moon" by Brian D. McClure, which I read to the children. Sam particularly enjoys listening to stories and the books seemed to leave a positive impression on him. As a result, we implemented a reward system where Sam can read a chapter from his favorite book at the end of the day if he displays positive behavior throughout the day. This helps keep him motivated by earning stickers in his special "behavior" book each time he exhibits appropriate behavior and cooperation.

Today is Lilly’s birthday and her mother has brought homemade cupcakes for the class. During circle time, we lit a candle on Lilly's cupcake and began singing the "Happy birthday" song. Suddenly, Sam leaped from his seat and, without warning, blew out the candle. Everyone gasped. Sam appeared nervous, with a silly smile plastered on his face. The teacher stayed calm and instructed Sam to return to his seat, which he obediently did. Before relighting the candle, the teacher explained to the class that it was Lilly's special day and she was the only one allowed to blow out the candle.

Everybody agrees that on their birthdays, everyone will have a turn to blow the candle. The teacher thanks everyone for being cooperative. However, Sam, who knows the rules, struggles with impulse control (Ch. 8, p. 136). Therefore, we need to closely monitor Sam, remind him of the rules and expected behavior, and provide him with plenty of encouragement and not just simple praise (Ch. 9, p. 151) whenever we observe him successfully controlling his impulses (Ch. 8, p. 137).

We should focus on the positive and stress the importance of the process, while also showing compassion for Sam's mistakes and highlighting the impact they have on his peers. Additionally, because Sam struggles with transitions, I will remind the children of their expected behavior before the event to prevent impulsive actions. To make it more visual for the children, we may even consider role-playing the situation with blowing out a candle. (Reference: "Challenging Behavior in Young Children" by Barbara Kaiser and Judy Sklar Rasminsky - Pearson, 2007)

Updated: Feb 16, 2024

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Challenges in Supporting Sam's Behavior. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Challenges in Supporting Sam's Behavior essay
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