Tag Archives: behavioral strategies

A Little Followup on Ben and Transitions



Ben has continued to grow in his capacity for language and friendship. He is a happy child who loves his parents, his teachers, and his friends. He also seems to love school and the activities in the classroom and the playground.

In a brainstorming session in the classroom earlier in the year, his parents and teachers and I tried to come up with a plan that would make it easier for Ben to make the transition from bed to school. Although as I noted he loves school, he had a hard time making the transition from bed to getting ready for school in the morning. The teachers wondered if his parents could give him a job to do in the morning, since Ben delights in the jobs (meeting assistant, snack helper, etc.) he has at school. His parents followed through, and sure enough the job solution seemed to help the morning transition. The last time we spoke, his mother said that helping his father make breakfast or even do the laundry  (which everyone agreed was a less desirable job) facilitated the move from sleep state and cozy bed and mommy, to school.

It is important to add at this point that there is nothing magical in this kind of “strategy” and nothing that ensures that this particular good idea will help another child in another place and time. Yet, the idea emerged from a sharing of observations and impressions of Ben among important people in his life, and this collective effort to understand Ben is valuable in itself. The idea of a “job” was specific to one little individual, Ben, but I would guess that whenever teachers and parents engage in this kind of constructive process with or without someone like me, a similarly useful idea will result.

Another related thought is that “strategies” (parents and teachers frequently request them) are sort of Wizard of Oz phenomena. That is, their power may derive as much from the caregiver’s subjective response to them as to their inherent value. (I often think the same about medicine; perhaps some of the placebo effect is related to this.) If the caregiver asking for a strategy trusts in the wisdom of the authority – whether a person or a book – then the strategy has the potential of being helpful. The strategy and the authority behind it confer a sense of security or hope that works against the original helplessness experienced by the caregiver, and those positive feelings are communicated to the child.

And one more thought I have on the subject is that these strategies are placeholders in the child’s development. They can help children avoid getting stuck in their developmental paths and maintain their momentum so that they can continue to grow until the solution to a problem specific to one point in time is no longer needed.