C is for Compliance

If you are having non-compliance challenges, first assess the situation and try to determine why the non-compliance is occurring.  See last week’s post, “B is for Behavior” for a better understanding of assessing behavior.  Sometimes, after you know the cause, getting a change in behavior is a quick fix.  Sometimes, it is not.

The next time your child or student demonstrates non-compliance or negative behavior, reach into your “bag of tricks” and pull out a new and different approach.  I’ll give you a few ideas to hide away in the bag for when you need them.


In a general speech therapy session, I sit at a right angle  the student.  In small groups, I sit among the group either on the floor or at a table on the same level as the kids. Avoid having the kids on the floor with you in a chair.  Do not stand while they are sitting.  (Teaching a larger group is different).  As long as everything is going smoothly, I maintain a relaxed distance.  If the child starts struggling with the task or begins to demonstrate inappropriate behavior, I move closer. I might even put my hands over their hands and guide them through the task.   I continue to move closer until I recognize a change.  As the child gains control, I move away.

In a group, I will move to sit closer a child who is being disruptive.  Often, this is all it takes to settle them and I never have to call their name or redirect.


When teaching, create a setting that makes it easy for the kids to attend, comply and learn.  Many kids need a visible cue of their boundaries.  If working on the floor, use a carpet square, a towel or a perimeter made of masking tape to remind children of where their bodies should be.  At a shared table, you may need to mark off areas with colored tape.  Make sure chairs are an appropriate size.  Ideally, a child’s feet should be on the floor when sitting in a chair.  Chairs with arms provide extra boundary cues.  If you are out in the community, remind your child of his boundaries.  In the grocery store, for example, maybe he must be touching the cart at all times.  On a walk, the boundary could be staying at least one house ahead of you on the sidewalk.  At the playground you could ask him make sure he can see you at all times…if he cannot see you, then he needs to go to a place where he can.


One approach to controlling behavior is through positive reinforcement.  In its purest form, this method promotes reinforcing positive behavior while ignoring negative behavior.  The positive reinforcement is visibly noted through a token economy system.  There are hundreds of ways to create a token economy system.  I find that using various tools keeps things fresh which increases the likelihood of the system working.  A token economy system can be for a task, for an event, for a particular time period or for a whole day.   The basic concept is that the child earns something periodically for demonstrating appropriate behavior.  At the end of the predetermined time, the child is able to trade what he has earned for something that is rewarding.  It might look like this:

“We are going to work on homework for one hour.  You will get a token every 10 minutes that you work without complaining.  At the end of an hour, you if you have 5 tokens, you may have a snack and watch an hour of TV:


“I need you to go to the grocery store with me.  I will give you a penny each time I see you keeping your hands to yourself.  I will give you a penny if you are helpful.  If you have 20 pennies when we leave the store, we can get a movie on the way out”



“Here is a list of the things that you need to get done in the morning before school.  You will get a check for each one that you do before 8:00.  Tonight, you will get to stay up for 5 minutes past your bedtime for each check that you earn.”

Positive Reinforcement Ideas:

token board

marbles in a jar



sticker chart



And remember, rewarding positive behavior means ignoring the not-so-positive.  That can be the hard part.  But, in theory, a system of rewards can drastically reduce the need for punishment or negative consequences.  Its a lot of work on the front end to have life a little easier on the back end, so to speak.

I have seen behavioral supports and positive reinforcement work….quite well at times.  However, kids are kids and life is life and nothing fits into a box perfectly.  Sometimes, things get out of hand.  Sometimes, consequences are the cure, especially when administered infrequently, but firmly in.  In other words, you don’t give a consequence often, but when you do, it will be remembered.

That said, meltdowns happen.  Even the best reinforcement plans and the most carefully implemented consequences do not guarantee model behavior all the time.  Sometimes there is an explosion, a defiance of authority, a mega-tantrum, a meltdown.  What to do? I’ll be writing about that next week.  Loot for the 3rd post in this series “M is for Meltdown”.

I have raised 4 children of my own, fostered 2 and taught 100’s.  I can testify that diligent hard work parenting in the early years leads to less “hands on” work in the latter years.  When I start with a new client or class I am very structured and firm in the beginning.  I earn their respect and learn their nuances and then am able to relax more as time goes on because the children know that I am fair and they want to please me.

Parenting and teaching are not easy.  You need to be “in the game” at all times, assessing, creating, redesigning, adjusting.  But, the joy of a newly learned concept, the thrill of gaining understanding and the pride in witnessing success make it all worth while.

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