I don’t get many children “sent to the office” for misbehavior. Maybe a dozen in a school year. Pretty remarkable considering the size of our student body. To find out why, the article Given The Right Conditions in the April newsletter. Does that mean children behave perfectly all the time at Raintree? No, of course not. But what happens if they are sent to the office?

It depends on the age of the child, of course, andthe issue. For some it is simply a place to cool down. My method is benign neglect with doses of empathy and optimism. What? Neglect?

Child comes to the office accompanied by teacher. Teacher leaves, child stays. I say, “You must be having a hard time today. That’s too bad. Have a seat.” My chairs have wheels on them so I push the chair facing the window so they can watch the cars in the parking lot, and they don’t have to stare at me, a“face-saving”technique. I might say, “I’m looking for a red car. If you see one coming into the parking lot, will you let me know?” After a while I said, “Oh, by the way, when you have some ideas about how to fix your problem, let me know. I’m pretty busy right now though,” at which point I type madly on my computer acting busy and don’t make eye contact. And then I wait. And wait.
Most kids don’t come up with a solution. They are mesmerized by the cars, or are seriously searching for the mysterious red car. So after a while I say, “Found the car?” And then later I say, “You know other kids have had the same problem. Want some ideas?” Child might bite, but usually they are silent. I start with a silly one, and say, “How about that?” and they say, “No!” This is mostly to break the ice and assure them everyone makes mistakes, and we can get through this. So I recommend a few more ideas until they latch on to one that will work for them. If they are an older child, I say, “Do you think you can handle this yourself, or do you want me to go with you?” If they say they can do it themselves, and the infraction isn’t very serious, I say, “Great. I’ll be checking with you and the teacher in a few minutes to see how it worked out. I sure hope the next time I see you in my office it will be for you to show me some great work. Good luck.” If it is a younger child, we return hand-in-hand to the classroom. Even these office visits end on a good note, and hopefully, a better day for everyone.