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Defiant Children: Why Some Interventions DON’T Work

This post is taken from my December issue of the ODD Management Digest (click here to subscribe). It poses an interesting question.

It’s happened to all of us, hasn’t it. We implement a new intervention we have learned … and it falls FLAT! It not only fails, it flops miserably. Why?

A 9th-grade teacher tried Karen Ledet’s idea from the November issue of the ODD Management Digest and emailed the following concern (essentially, Karen, a teacher in Vernon, Florida, posed a really simple, but powerful idea: to provide a desk separated from the others for any youngster who just wants more “space” when they do their classwork):

  I tried the “Privacy Desk” technique with one student, but he does not like it because he says I am isolating him. I would appreciate your advice.

Obviously this would not be a strategy to use with a student who considers it a punitive measure. I might isolate a student as a disciplinary measure, but that would be a different intervention entirely.

As I see it, and as Karen explained it, the benefit of the “Privacy Desk” is that it runs mostly on automatic pilot. Students who feel they need a bit more space from others can use the “isolated” desk. There are those times when some youngsters WANT to be alone in a crowded classroom.

This teacher’s concern is both valid and real; I’ve definitely “been there; done that.” The whole issue brings up the importance of the role of perception in determining exactly HOW a student will handle an intervention.

An example. I once provided counseling services in a small school district in southeast Texas. I was only there once a month, but I quickly got to know most of the students. They would come up to me in the hall and ask me if I would sit next to them at lunch. To them, it was a big thing.

But consider the youngster who cannot behave or keep his hands to himself. The teacher tell him he will sit with her at lunch, and will not be going outside with the others for lunch recess. That kid HATES it. The same behavior, sitting with the teacher or counselor at lunch, can be Heaven or Hell to a child depending on how it is “packaged.”

A youngster’s perception of an intervention is a key ingredient to its success. 


James Sutton, Psychologist


December 9, 2008 - Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. It all comes down to presentation doesn’t it?


    Comment by tobeme | December 17, 2008 | Reply

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