Chapter 9: Positive Intent - Conscious Discipline
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Chapter 9: Positive Intent

We must see children differently in order for them to
behave differently.

Positive Intent Summary

Power: Love: See the best in others.
Becoming Brain Smart: Positive Intent integrates the brain and produces oxytocin, increasing trust, safety and moral behavior.
Skill: “You wanted ___,” “You were hoping ___,” A.C.T., Reframing
School Family: Celebration Center, Wishing Well, School Family Assemblies
Power of Love
D.J.'s Transformation
Personal Storytelling
Integrating the Right and Left Hemispheres

How to Make a Bully From Scratch
Bullying Road Signs
Activity to Move From Negative to Positive Intent

Exercise #1:

Negative Intent Positive Reframing
Some children are just mean. Some children need social skills.
They sure know how to push my buttons. They don’t know what to do to get their needs met appropriately.
He’s being hurtful for no reason. He has a hard time managing his frustration.
He keeps others from learning. He learns best by discussing new concepts with others.
She is disrupting the whole class. She gets bored after completing her work so fast.
She is plain old lazy. She has a hard time getting started with her work.

Exercise #2:

Negative Intent Positive Reframing
A child pushes another child. You wanted a turn with the ball.
A child ignores your direction to shut down the computer. You were hoping you could play on the computer longer.
Emma takes some of Elton’s popcorn when he is not looking. You wanted more popcorn.
A child grabs a pencil from another. You wanted the pencil with the big eraser on it so you could erase your mistakes.
A child says, “Move it, stupid.” You wanted Kenny to walk faster so the back of the line could keep up with the rest of the class.
Using BIG Voices
Activity to Practice Positive Intent for Hurtful Actions

Situation 1:

Step 1 - Positive intent: “Sydney, you wanted Caleb to move so you could get a drink.

Step 2 - Notice: “So you pushed him.

Step 3 - State the missing skill: “You didn't know the words to use.

Step 4 - Set limits: “You may not push. Pushing hurts.

Step 5 - Teach: “When you want a turn at the fountain, say, May I have a turn, please?”

Step 6 - Encourage: “You did it! You asked for a turn and Sydney was kind enough to let you in front of her.”


Situation 2:

Step 1 - Positive intent: “Noah, you wanted Angie to know you felt angry."

Step 2 - Notice: “So you hit her."

Step 3 - State the missing skill: “You didn’t know what else to do."

Step 4 - Set limits: “You may not hit. Hitting hurts. It is not safe.

Step 5 - Teach: “When you want to let someone know you felt angry, say, I don’t like it when you ____. Next time say ____."

Step 6 - Encourage: “You did it! You shared with Noah how you wanted her to treat you and she shared with you how she wanted to be treated."


Video Demonstrations:

A.C.T. for Younger Children
Biting Program: Reduce Stress, Teach a New Skill Before the Bite
  • Try to locate stressors in the toddler’s life: Not enough structure, too much structure, not enough rest, eating, bowel habits, connection, attunement, etc.
  • Start a stress reduction program at home and school.
    • More touching (skin to skin), body massage games (I am saying goodnight/goodbye to your legs, arms, hands, fingers, head, etc.)
    • I Love You Rituals with attuned interactions
    • Chest and lap time while downloading calm
    • More visual schedules and routines
  • Shadowing and teething necklace: There is nothing you can do to help a child learn other ways of getting his or her needs met after the bite has occurred. You must catch the child before the bite. Most bites occur during transitions and non-structured time. Have a person shadow the child who is biting. When the child begins to bite:
    • Toss the teething cloth into the child’s open mouth. The mouth will close.
    • Say, “You wanted _____(take an educated guess as to what the child wanted). Say _____(acceptable words) or do _____(acceptable action)!”
    • Firmly say, “STOP. No bite! Ouch (make pained face) biting hurts.”
    • Make visuals of alternatives to biting: My turn, play, move, etc.
  • After age three, children usually bite when they feel powerless or scared, such as when they are losing a fight or think they are going to be hurt by another person. Children older than three who frequently bite other people may need to be seen by a doctor. This type of biting may be a sign that a child has problems with expressing feelings or self-control.
  5-7 months 8-13 months 15-36 months 4+
Why Teething or discomfort around the mouth Overexcited Stressed, frustrated, as a strategy to get something, often during transitions Early stressor, tantrums
Who Caregivers Caregiver or
child nearby
Children Children
or self
What To Do
  • Teething rings
  • Overreact to bite with face and sounds (ouch!)
  • Overreact with "ouch" and face. "Biting hurts." A.C.T. method
  • Downloading throughout the day to regulate
  • Locate and reduce stressors
  • Start stress reduction program, secure during transitions
  • Shadow to interfere
  • Use biting intervention strategy
Seek professional help
Message "My mouth hurts. Help!" "I'm so excited, I'm over aroused. Help!" "I know no other way to get what I want or express myself. Help!" "My clacker is way off. Help!"
School Family Assemblies

Entrance Song

Activity to Unite

  • Pledge of Allegiance
  • Collectively recite school mission.
  • Collectively recite “intention” for the month/week.
  • Sing the school song.
  • Use a music CD that goes with the program to expose staff and faculty to a variety of music.
  • Create a School Family faculty song to a popular tune.
  • Safekeeper ritual: I am willing to keep the meeting safe.

Activity to Disengage Stress

  • Belly-breathing activities
  • S.T.A.R., Balloon, Drain, Pretzel, bunny breathing, breathing arms, etc.
  • Stretching (especially calves)
  • Brain Gym activities
  • Cross crawls to music
  • Yoga moves or yoga story
  • High energy songs that get the heart pumping or include stretching:

Activities to Connect 

  • Greetings 
  • Commercial songs
  • Team building activities 
  • Content connections: Tell a partner one thing you learned from yesterday and give a high five.
  • I Love You Rituals
  • Wish Well / Absent Child Ritual

Activity to Commit 

  • Individual Commitments:
    • Circle Up
    • Journal writing
    • Chart with names and commitment choices
  • Group Commitments:
    • Safekeeper chant
    • Willingness cards
    • Agreements: Listening ears, kind words, no put-downs, gentle touches and the right to pass (younger version). Attentive listening, appreciation, no put-downs, mutual respect and the right to pass (older version).

Ending Song and Exit


Video Demonstrations:

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