Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.  Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist MFC32136

                                   Psychotherapy for Children, Teens, Adults, Couples, & Families, Consulting, & Training

          433 Estudillo Ave., #305, San Leandro, CA 94577-4915 - Office: (510) 614-5641 - Fax: (510) 889-6553 - e-mail: - website:

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Books by Ronald Mah


Calligraphy for "Learning" in





by Ronald Mah

on Children's Behavior,

Discipline, and Child

Development at



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In my work with parents, teachers, social workers, therapists, and other social services professionals, I have developed or replicated information on handouts that summarize important principles, concepts, or theories that lead to more successful interventions.  You may download the files for your use. 


          Follow Links to Handout Files on:       

   Development     Understanding Children & Discipline     Communication & Conflict    Teenage Issues     Change & Growth Issues     Mini-Posters & Information     Adult Issues & Work Dynamics   



Basic Rules of Developmental Theories 

Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Infant/Toddlers Care  

Interest Area Focuses for Early Childhood Development

Ainsworth's Patterns of Attachment Theory  

Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development 

The Caterpillar- Zorba the Greek on Development

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dvd  on this topic is available at

1) Development happens in STAGES.


2) There are CRITICAL PERIODS in development when the person is more vulnerable to harm or available for growth.


3) QUANTITATIVE changes lead to QUALITATIVE change.

Small increases in quantity (amount, frequency, skill, etc.) lead to significant quality differences or movement into another stage.


4) Development is SEQUENTIAL.  There is an order to development… 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.


5) Development is PROGRESSIVE.  The development of the earlier stages set up for the development of later stages.


6) SKIPPING or RUSHING development doesn't work and/or causes harm. The developmental demands that are skipped or rushed will pull the person back for completion or resolution until they are completed.  You can get stuck or regress to such stages until they are resolved.


7) Excessive STRESS, ABUSE, or TRAUMA will get people stuck or to regress at that stage. Such extreme experiences draw a person's energy and attention away from dealing with or resolving the developmental needs of the individual's stage.   (Skipping or Rushing development creates stress in of itself.)


8) DEVELOPMENTAL ENERGY will eventually reassert itself.


9) RESILIENCY allows for skipped, rushed, incomplete, stalled, regressed, or suppressed Development to be re-stimulated in the organism.


10) SATIATION of developmental needs allows for movement on to the next developmental challenge.  Until the developmental needs of the stage are met, an individual will stay in the stage.




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*from Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers (1989), by Janet Gonzalez-Mena & Dianne Widmeyer Eyer, Mayfield Publishing Company, 1240 Villa St., Mountain View, CA 94041.


1. Involve infants and toddlers in things that concern them.  Don't work around them or distract them to get the job done faster.


2. Invest in quality time, when you are totally available to individual infants and toddlers.  Don't settle for supervising groups without focusing (more than just briefly) on individual children.


3. Learn each child's unique ways of communicating (cries, words, movements, gestures, facial expressions, body positions) and teach them yours.  Don't underestimate their ability to communicate even though their verbal language skills may be non-existent or minimal.


4. Invest in time and energy to build a total person (concentrate on the "whole child").  Don't focus on cognitive  development alone or look at it as separate from total development.


5. Respect infants and toddlers as worthy people. Don't treat them as objects or cut little empty-headed creatures to be manipulated.


6. Be honest about your feelings around infants and toddlers.  Don't pretend to feel something that you don't or not to feel something that you do.


7. Model the behavior you want to teach.  Don't preach.


8. Recognize problems as learning opportunities, and let infants and toddlers try to solve their own difficulties.  Don't rescue them, constantly make life easy for them, or try to protect them from all problems.


9. Build security by teaching trust.  Don't teach distrust by being undependable of often inconsistent.


10. Be concerned about the quality of development in each stage.  Don't rush infants and toddlers to reach development milestones.*


Note: If you look at these principles carefully, you will notice that they are excellent principles for working with preschoolers, older children, and people in general, and in a variety of situations!


(for the complete handout, go to...)



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Blocks: blocks are designed in mathematical units.  Get concrete understanding of concepts essential to logical understanding: sizes, shapes, numbers, order, area, length, and weight; large and small muscle development; language, aesthetic, and social development; cooperative play; problem solving; respecting others work.

  4 stages of block play: Carrying Blocks, Piling Blocks and Laying Blocks on the Floor, Connecting Blocks to Create Structures (3-4), Making Elaborate Constructions (4-6).


House Corner: a forum where they can safely act out fears and relive life experiences.  Take on the roles they fear and learn to control them. Opportunities to learn.  Act out roles, develop skills. Learn about selves, families, and society. Fine motor skill development.  Cooperation and negotiation skills.

  3 stages of dramatic play: Imitative Role Play (1yr)- like real people they know- using real props; Make-Believe Play using imagination using symbolic props- inventive actions and situations (fears and worries); Socio-Dramatic Play (3-4yr)- includes elements of two previous stages but requires verbal interaction btwn two or more children- requires a planning of roles, complex plots, and more time.


Table Toys: Physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive skills-

  3 functional categories: self-correcting toys which fit together in a specific way.

Open-ended toys which have not right or wrong solution; Collectibles are like open-ended toys but are composed of sets of like objects.

  2 stages of play: exploration where use all senses to become familiar with a toy; followed by experimentation which is the actual use of the object- test to see how it works and how many ways it works.


Art: promotes creativity, is fun, develops physical skills including hand-eye coordination and fine motor movements, instills pride.  Means to express, make choices, try out, plan, and experiment.  Explore and discover.

  4 stages of drawing and painting (from 18 months to six years) : disordered scribbling, controlled scribbling, naming a picture that was not planned, and representational drawing.


Sand & Water: encounter principles of math and science; physical dexterity, social skills, cognitive learning and skills (sink & float), sensory satisfaction.

  3 stages of sand and water play: sensory motor exploration; planned and experimental play; greater complexity, drama, imagination (more cooperative).


Library Corner: to gain information & adjust to new experiences, learn to deal with difficult events, acquire specific knowledge, become familiar with different kinds of literature, learn about social responsibilities, learn new ideas, expand imagination and creativity, have their life experiences reinforced, understand their feelings, fears, and problems are not unique to them, feel good about themselves.

 2 stages of library use: exploration and experimentation.

 5 stages of book use: exploration, playing at reading, and having books read to them;  understanding sequencing of stories (beginning, middle, end)- details important; learn to relate stories to pictures and words- gaining more awareness of written words as symbols for ideas and thoughts; matching words to printed text; focus on text and meaning of words - begin sight word recognition.


Outdoors: an extension of indoor classroom (cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical learning) plus outdoor sensory experiences, science, etc.

 2 stages of outdoor play: exploration and experimentation.


Resource: The Creative Curriculum For Early Childhood, by Diane Trister Dodge, published by Teaching Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 42243, Washington D.C. 20015, distributed by Gryphon House, Inc., P.O. Box 275, Mt. Rainer, MD 20712, 1988.

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  Ainsworth's Patterns of Attachment Theory*  


Secure Attachment (66%):

            Attachment style in which an infant separates readily from the primary caregiver and actively seeks out the caregiver when she or he returns.


Avoidant Attachment (20%):

            Attachment style in which an infant rarely cries when the primary caregiver leaves and avoids contact on his or her return.


Ambivalent (resistant) Attachment (12%):

            Attachment style in which an infant becomes anxious before the primary caregiver leaves but both seeks and resists contact on the caregiver's return.


Disorganized-Disoriented Attachment:

            Attachment style in which an infant shows contradictory behaviors, and seems confused and afraid.


Characteristics of caregivers of securely attached babies:

            most sensitive to babies demands in first year of life;

            observed "demand" feeding;

            responsive to cues to stop, slow down, or speed up feeding;

            more likely to soothe babies when they cried- to answer babies sounds;

            more likely to talk to babies when they looked into caregiver's face;

            tend to hold them closer to their bodies;

            more responsive and skilled in caretaking;

            had positive feelings about themselves.


Characteristics of caregivers of avoidant attached babies:

            angriest of all caregivers;



            lacking in confidence;

            seemed uninterested in their babies;

            trouble expressing their feelings;

            shied away from close physical contact with their babies.


Characteristics of caregivers of ambivalently attached babies:

            well meaning but less capable;

            tended to score lower on IQ tests;

            understand less how to meet their babies' needs.


*A Child's World, Infancy Through Adolescence, Papalia and Olds, McGraw-Hill,  Inc. New York, 1993.



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Sensorimotor (0-18 months)- six substages

  1) reflexes (0-1 month) that gradually become more efficient: sucking, grasping, kicking.

  2) primary circular reactions (1-4 months) repetition for own sake without any intention.

  3) secondary circular reactions (4-6 months) repeated actions to produce effects that seem interesting.

  4) coordination of secondary reactions (7-10 months) mastery of responses that child uses to create specific desired effects.

  5) tertiary circular reactions (11-18 months) active trial and error experimentation.

  6) internal mental inventions (18 months) invention of new means of affecting self and world through internal mental combinations.


Preoperational (18 months-age 7)

  Characterized by the development and use of language; understanding the meanings of objects; and events are manipulated; as well as overt actions.  Treat objects as symbolic of other things.  Not necessarily committed to fine articulated rules and concepts.


Concrete Operations (age 7-12)

 Now can make a mental representation of an entire sequence of events;       Conservation of volume;  Relational terms distinguishable (which is darker? between two light objects);  Class inclusion understood (more yellow or more candles);  Still present centered.


Formal Operations (age 12 and up)

  Can consider all alternatives to solve problems; Is deductive; Can do hypothetical thinking; can use abstract rules to solve a whole class of problems; rational and systematic; self-conscious and highly reflective; is more future oriented and remote.


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The Caterpillar

Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek  


I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out.  I waited a while, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient.  I bent over and breathed on it to warm it.  I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life.  The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with his whole trembling body to unfold them.  Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath.  In vain.


It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun.  Now it was too late.  My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time.  It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.


That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience.  For I realized today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature.  We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, that we should confidently obey the internal rhythm.



          Follow Links to Handout Files on:       

   Development     Understanding Children & Discipline     Communication & Conflict    Teenage Issues     Change & Growth Issues     Mini-Posters & Information     Adult Issues & Work Dynamics   



Principles for becoming strong, or to build a strong successful child  

Learning Disabilities & Child Behavior 

A Hierarchy of Discipline  

Incentive Based Behavioral Modification Program for Children

Daily Behavior Report w/short explanations about how to use in a school/parent partnership

Diagnostic Order for Understanding & Approaching Behavior (including "Hyper" Behavior, Acting Out, Tantrums, etc.)

Ten Most Important Skills 

Stages of Blending in a Step-Family   

Temperamental Evaluations

Quick Check for Learning Styles

Social Cues- 13 Reasons People Miss Social Cues (with Interventions)

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  Principles for becoming strong, or to build a strong successful child

dvd named "Childhood Stress" on this topic available at



One must experience stress, since stress is what builds strength.  Avoiding stress, avoids opportunities to grow.


One must experience frustration to learn how to survive it and deal with it successfully, since it accompanies life experiences, stresses, and challenges.  Avoiding frustration results in avoiding the stress that builds.  


One must experience and become comfortable of failure, since failure is a natural consequence of trying anything or learning anything.  Fear of failure results in one of two consequences: one will become socio-pathic and willing to win at all costs, no matter how harmful it is to oneself, others or the community; or, to guarantee no failure, one will not try.  


While experiencing stress, frustration, and failure, one must also suffer in order to experience that one can suffer without being destroyed or overwhelmed; to discover ones resiliency.  If one feels that one cannot tolerate any suffering, then one will do extreme compulsive behaviors in order to avoid suffering.


A person can endure stress, frustration, failure, and suffering, if his/her caring authoritative individuals has the sensitivity to understand his/her abilities, limitations, and capacities.


With that sensitivity, then such caring authoritative individuals can offer the appropriate support that one needs to benefit from stress, frustration, failure, and suffering. 


From the experiences with sensitive support, one will develop strength, and  


From the experiences with sensitive support, one will develop skills.


From the experiences, strength, and skills, one will develop a confidence that despite the difficulties and challenges of the world, they will survive.  


Once one is confident that he/she can survive, then he/she can risk and have the opportunity to flourish in the world.  


**All individuals must go through Stress, Frustration, Failure, & Suffering to grow powerful.  To build powerful successful children, parents must stress, frustrate, let their children fail, and make sure they suffer!  W/ sensitivity, they can support their children through this to develop strength & skills that will ensure survival and offer the possibility of flourishing.



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  Learning Disabilities & Child Behavior

dvd named "Learning Diversity" on this topic is available at


  Children with Learning Disabilities (Learning Disorders), or who are considered Learning Different process, integrate, and retrieve information differently, and/or have weaknesses in their processing, integration, and retrieval mechanisms.  Learning Disabilities are not grown out of, nor do they go away.  The technical definition is a substantial difference between a child's academic achievement and what is expected for someone his/her age.  LD's include deficits in visual perception, linguistic processes, auditory processes, attention, and memory.


Examples of LD's include:

            A child who clearly hears instructions but is inefficient in processing the information into short term memory.  He/she then "forgets," and gets in trouble.  In reality, this is the result of an auditory processing problem;

            A child who is not as efficient as other children in retrieving information from his/her cognitive storage, and takes more time to find the answer to a question.  Unaware that the teacher has gotten a correct answer from the other children and has asked a new question because he/she had been concentrating on finding the answer, the LD child gives out that answer for the previous question.  His/her correct answer (to the previous question) but incorrect answer (to the current question!) is seen as him/her being funny by his/her classmates, but as being disruptive by the teacher.

            A child is attentive and understands the materials presented, and participates appropriately verbally in class, then turns in an unclear jumbled written assignment with disconnected thoughts.  Criticized for poor effort, the child actually has an LD processing problem that makes it difficult and confusing as he/she tries to put ideas and opinions in written form.

            A child is a very slow reader and is making very minimal progress becoming a better reader.  He/she is thought to not care and/or mentally deficient.  The child may have an undiagnosed visual perception learning disability creating difficulty in distinguishing the differences in letters that are "mirrors" of each other: "b" & "d", "p" & "q", "M" & "W", "Z" & "N".



           LD children are often misdiagnosed.  They are seen as mentally deficient, or resistant to learning.  They are often criticized for not paying attention and being lazy.  They are constantly being told to try harder.  Their motivation is questioned- adults often think they don't care.  The lack of learning or progress is sometimes seen as the child being defiant.

          Having encountering failure after failure despite tremendous effort, being constantly criticized and harangued, feeling tremendous frustration, and having had his/her self-esteem devastated, the LD child may start acting out and fulfill the negative criticisms of being a lazy, unmotivated, stupid, and defiant child.



          LD children are constantly being encouraged and admonished to try  harder, and constantly being doubted that they are trying hard.  LD children, like other children try very hard to please their parents and children, and to be accepted by their other children.  So, they try very hard.. and then try even harder...and harder.  They try as hard as they can, but their learning disability may prevent them from being successful; and prevent them from satisfying or pleasing the important adults and from not being labeled negatively by them and the other children.

        As they try and fail, try harder and fail, try as hard as they can and still fail, LD children are stigmatized by adults and other children as being stupid- worse, they believe themselves to be stupid.  After all, all that trying just proved it.  LD children are often demoralized and their self-esteem destroyed.  Loss of self-esteem in LD children, as in all children makes them vulnerable to a tremendous number of other negative behaviors (emotional problems, relationship problems, violence, defiance, substance abuse, and so forth).



        The key to successfully helping LD children progress comes from first, recognizing that the child's lack of success or progress is not due to other issues (especially negatively judgmental issues); second, successfully identifying the specific learning disability or learning difference that the child has; and third, training the child to use compensating techniques and/or skills. 

        This type of instruction is specialized and drawing assistance from and using specially educated and trained professional resources is usually required and recommended.  Not all schools have staff that are equipped to do this.

        There is philosophy in some educational programs to put LD children in a less demanding academic environment, give them easier work, and allow them to "succeed" in that way.  As a result, some LD children complete public school, get a diploma, and are sent into advanced academic programs and/or the work world without any acquired compensatory skills or techniques to function successfully with their learning disability in the real world.  And, then they fail.

        Parents need to forcefully advocate for their children to be taught LD Survival Skills! and not just be passed through schools.



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  Where do you start? Where do you end up?  

This hierarchy of discipline seeks to be logical, to be careful of what the adult teaches when he/she disciplines, to be responsive to the child, and tries to give children responsibility but also attempts to keep the adult's responsibility to be the adult.


**It is very important to note that before any attempt at discipline, there needs to be CONNECTION.  Being in tune to the feelings of the child and then validating him or her no matter the effects of his or her actions.  The feelings of upsetness, of being wronged, of being angry are always real and valid TO THE CHILD, whether the circumstances and situation justify the actions and results or not.  If you skip this connecting/validating process, NONE OF THE DISCIPLINE STEPS WILL BE REALLY ABSORBED BY THE CHILD! 

The first level- Civilized!: These principles need to be kept at the second and third levels as well. (This is most of us promise to do until we have real children to discipline!).

  Reason- logical, not arbitrary, considerate of child and others.

  Expectations- trusts, values child's ability to be reasonable.

  Parents/Teachers' Pleasure and Displeasure- works with the child's natural instinct to please those important to him/her.


The second level- Creative/Logical Serving Motivations:

  Dependent on finding the individual key to situations and personalities; the adult needs to be discerning and evaluative; the child needs to feel the logic of the motivation in how it serves him/herself.  Such logic is internal and self-serving for the child.   Caring for others feelings and needs as a motivation for change may not work with younger children.  However, the logic for the child is normally very short-term.  Long-term consequences are not real to him/her.  Putting things in terms of short-term consequences is important.


The third level- Punitive and Coercive Motivations:  (This is where many of us often do our disciplining, sometimes harmfully.  We skip the second level or cannot figure it out). 

  Distracting- there are possible negative aspects to distracting as a method.

  Motivation- positive and negative (keeping the motivation as relevant and logical to the situations as possible).

          Positive- rewards and bribes.

          Negative- scoldings and punishments (Timeout) & (Corporal Punishment).

**the second and third levels are or can be interrelated.


The fourth level- Environmental or Ecological Approach to Children.

   (Or when nothing simple seems to be working.)

          Consistency between all involved (between parents, between parents and other important adults including teachers) so as not to confuse them.

          Information Exchange to clarify behavior and responses, share expertise (parent to teacher & teacher to parent)

          Insight Exchange to disclose and evaluate possible  underlying reasons for behavior.


Another level- Taking a hard look at the Family. 

          Distinguishing Individual problems versus Family problems.

This is can be done within the family.  Sometimes professional help makes sense. 


Another level- Taking a hard look at the Individual

          Distinguishing common developmental and discipline issues with more severe and less common challenges that interfere with the integration and processing of internal processes and inter-personal communication.  Professional consultation normally would be highly recommended.  Be sure to find the right professional. While many parents turn to their children’s pediatricians, their expertise is primarily in physical medical health and development.  Early childhood educators,  developmental specialists, neurologists, speech and language professionals, mental health professionals, vocational therapists, and other specialists are often more appropriate to consult depending on your child’s issues.



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            Many oppositional children are seeking greater control in their own lives as a means of dealing with the lack of power and control they otherwise feel in their own families, school, and the community.

            Many oppositional behaviors are attempts to get validation (not just attention) from adults.

            The parents and family of oppositional children, for various reasons, are often ineffective at giving appropriate validation and attention- they usually feel out of control themselves (and not just with their oppositional children.

            Oppositional children and their parents (or teachers) end up in a power struggle where both lose.

            Punishment usually has become the mode of discipline despite its ineffectiveness.

            Placating the child often becomes the only alternative to avoid conflict.

            Anger (and its relative Resentment) usually becomes the predominant emotion, sabotaging the relationship.



            Create real (and appropriate) power and control for both children and parents.

            Create means for the child to get validation.

            Defuse the power struggle and create the "Win, Win" situation.

            Remove punishment as a mode of discipline and replace with reinforcement/reward principles.

            Remove conflict from the relationship and replace with contracts.

            Remove anger as relevant to the relationship.



            Define GOALS and REWARDS as different but related.  Punishments are not a part of this plan.  Goals are behaviors that must occur in frequent and consistent ways, that once achieved result in Rewards. 

            Never take away any achieved "points."  In this plan, children never lose credit for achieved goals for misbehavior.  Misbehavior results in the lack of progress toward goals (and resultant rewards), but does not discredit the children's positive behavior.  This avoids the focus on punishment.

            Quantify and define children's behaviors desired by parents/adults.  Avoid subjective definitions of behavior- example, "Be good- don't be bad", "Be more helpful around the house."  Clear definitions of desirable behaviors would be, "Do all your homework before any TV," "Get to school on time or early every day," "If you are going to be half an hour late or more, call and let us know," "Put away your laundry before going to bed," "Do all your chores before you go out to play."  Quantify means yes or no, not "sort of" or "later" or "intend to."

            The CHILD (through negotiation with the adult), chooses his/her own rewards.  If toys are attractive to him/her...if money is...if privileges...if video games...if excursions...  The principle is that these rewards have to be meaningful to the child- not to the adult.  The child should be encouraged and led to minor, more substantial, and major rewards.  (see following page for an example).

            The ADULT (through negotiation with the child) sets the short term, mid-term, and long term goals.  If a clean room is attractive to him/her...if chores are...if homework is...if school attendance is...if attendance at family functions...  The principle is that the goals are meaningful to the adult now, and will have meaning for the child in life as he/she integrates them into his/her lifestyle and expectations.  The adult should pick minor frequency & consistency behavior goals, more substantial goals, and major goals.

            More substantial and major behavioral goals may be matched up with bonus rewards- such as more money, more points to redeem, or a special excursion, privilege, or present.

            Once the adult and the child agrees on the rewards and goals, then a CONTRACT can be made (writing it up and having it signed is recommended).  With the contract, the adult does not need to be angry at the child or punish him/her; the adult only has to adhere to his/her part of the contract.  If the child holds to his/her end, then he/she accumulates the points, achieves the goals, and gets the rewards.  If he/she doesn't, then he/she doesn't!  The adult has to do nothing, except not sabotage the contract.  Sabotaging the contract, would be finding ways to save the child from getting the consequences of not behaving (no points, no goals, no rewards).  Oppositional children can be very manipulative and tend to be experts at getting adults to change the contract to save them from the choices they have made.  DON'T DO IT!  If the adult "saves" the child from his/her choice, the adult effectively undermines him/herself and any possibility of the child learning a sense of responsibility.

            While this plan can be very effective, it depends on the adult following through.  In addition, not all children are oppositional because of their need for power and control.  Sometimes, they are oppositional because of the adult's controlling.  And, sometimes, they are oppositional because of profoundly adverse family issues.


(for the complete handout w/examples of incentive plans, go to...)




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Point Guide**

Child scoring

Teacher scoring







Line up / Into Class



Perfect/No Problems or Issues out of hand;



Class Time



Issues resolved well

Good Behavior;



AM Recess




Class Time



Minor Teacher Interventions

Fairly Good: Greater Teacher Intervention;







Class Time



Issues not fully resolved

Problematic Despite Teacher Intervention;



PM Recess




Class Time



Issues still happening

Oppositional/Defiant Behavior;






Lack of Resolution

Tantrums/Fights/Behavior Code Violations

_____/45 total

_____/45 total


*Teachers should adapt the Activity list to those that are relevant to the child's and classroom's particular schedule.


Instructions: Use top portion for the daily report. The child should score him/herself 0-5 on behavior for each time period.


The Teacher will score the child 0-5 on behavior for each time period, and use any scoring differences to TEACH and clarify specific behavior expectations.


Based on an average score of "3" ("3" meaning fairly good behavior w/, significant teacher intervention) a total score of 27 may be an initial goal. Example: 9 activity periods times an average of "4" points each = 36 points.


** Note: This is strictly a BEHAVIOR guide.  It is not intended to be about academics per se.  The focus is feedback on behavior that would preclude academic, social, and emotional progress.


With success, the target score should be raised. 


Rewards may be attached to the scores.

This is a daily behavior report.  For some children, a weekly report may be more appropriate.  The day is broken into parts to help identify both successful and unsuccessful periods of the day (as opposed to the whole day being described as a "bad day."

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  (including "Hyper" Behavior, Acting Out, Tantrums, etc.)

  dvd named "Understanding Children, Understanding Behavior, for More Effective Discipline" on this topic is available at

 1) Developmental factors (including life cycle issues for adults)

        CAUSE: development, age, maturation

        TREATMENT: satiation of developmental needs

        IMPLICATIONS/JUDGEMENTS: person is reacting normally to normal development

        TOLERANCE: high (if developmental stage is recognized)


 2) Situational factors (other children/colleagues, availability of toys/resources)

        CAUSE: situation

        TREATMENT: change the situation

        IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: person is reacting normally to the immediate situation only

        TOLERANCE: high 


 3) Physical condition

        CAUSE: fatigue, hunger

        TREATMENT: treat condition- rest or feed

        IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: normal reaction; condition changes, then behavior changes

        TOLERANCE: high 


 4) Emotional condition (situational)

        CAUSE: fear, anxiety, joy, sadness, grief

        TREATMENT: validate emotions, teach appropriate expression

        IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: person is reacting normally; colleague or supervisor may have judgment about appropriateness of the feeling

        TOLERANCE: high (depends on own comfort w/expression of emotions) 


*5) Temperamental factors

         CAUSE: personality

        TREATMENT: adjust for temperament/ socialize

         IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: person is reacting based on innate normal traits for him/her

        TOLERANCE: *high for temperament, *low for behavior


*6) Environmental/ecological factors (family, school, work systems) 

        CAUSE: family/school systems, turmoil, constraints- dysfunctionality

         TREATMENT: alter system, change environment

         IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: person is reacting normally to an adverse environment;

        TOLERANCE: high- sympathetic (colleague/supervisor may have guilt)


*7) Pathology (psychological)

       CAUSE: person's psychological problem/disorder

       TREATMENT: treat problem/disorder- "sick" patient

        IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: something is wrong with the person

       TOLERANCE: low to high?


**8) Morality

      CAUSE: evil or rotten essence

      TREATMENT: abandonment, punishment, damnation, or seeking of spiritual intervention

   IMPLICATIONS/JUDGMENTS: person is unsalvageable by another's activity or intervention

      TOLERANCE: none to ?  

(for complete handout w/ more explanations, go to...)



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  The Ten Most Important Skills Parents Can Teach Kids

from the Fremont Unified School District, Fremont, CA

 dvd  on this topic is available at

1.          Problem Solving-  putting knowledge and ability into action.


2.          Common Sense-  using good judgment.


3.          Teamwork-  working with others.


4.          Caring-  showing concerns for others.


5.          Perseverance-  completing what is started.


6.          Initiative-  moving into action.


7.          Responsibility-  doing what’s right.


8.          Effort-  being willing to work hard.


9.          Motivation-  wanting to do it.


10.        Confidence-  feeling able to do it.



“Do I model this behavior for my child?”


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          Where everything is happy and the family only see the good things; the couple is happy to have each other; the children are excited to have a mother or a father living with them again, and they are excited about the new siblings.



          Where the romance and excitement has worn off for the parents and the children, and reality starts to sink in; everybody starts to wonder if this is really going to last.



          Feelings of anger and aggression may emerge with a lot of tension and stress on the family; issues of money and power may arise.  This stage may be overcome by using resolution skills.



          This is a less intense stage where everyone is learning to work and live together peacefully and things are becoming balanced.



          During this stage the family starts to bond together and accept the reality of their new family and become more comfortable.


Refer to the Handout in for the Basic Rules of Developmental Theories The basic rules of all developmental theories apply to the Stages of Blending in a Step-Family.  Each stage needs to be satisfactorily satiated. Sequence and progression apply.  Rushing or skipping does not work.  Stress, abuse, or trauma will get the family stuck or make it regress.



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1. Activity Level: How active generally is the child/person from an early age?

2. Distractibility: How easily is the child/person distracted?  Can s/he pay attention?

3. Intensity: How loud is the child/person generally, whether happy or unhappy?

4. Regularity: How predictable is the child/person in his/her patterns of sleep, appetite, bowel habits?

5. Persistence: Does the child/person stay with something s/he likes? How persistent or stubborn is s/he when wants something?

6. Sensory threshold: How does the child/person react to sensory stimuli: noise, bright lights, colors, smells, pain, warm weather, tastes, the texture and feel of clothes?  Is s/he easily bothered?  Is s/he easily over-stimulated?

7. Approach/withdrawal: What is the child/person's initial response to newness- new places, people, foods, clothes?

8. Adaptability: How does the child/person deal with transition and change?

9. Mood: What is the child/person's basic mood?  Do positive or negative reactions predominate?


*Important to note that high or low in any trait is not implicitly good or bad.










  1. Activity Level 






  2. Distractibility 






  3. Intensity 






  4. Regularity 






  5. Persistence 






  6. Sensory threshold 






  7. Approach/Withdrawal






  8. Adaptability






  9. Mood 






TEMPERAMENTAL TRAITS    EASY <------------------------------> DIFFICULT

 Activity Level                         LOW  <----------------------------------- > HIGH

 Distractibility                         LOW  <----------------------------------- > HIGH

 Intensity                                LOW  <----------------------------------- > HIGH

 Regularity                           REGULAR <---------------------- > IRREGULAR

 Persistence                           LOW  <----------------------------------- > HIGH  

 Sensory threshold                  HIGH <------------------------------------ > LOW

 Approach/withdrawal            APPROACH <----------------- > WITHDRAWAL

 Adaptability                           GOOD <---------------------------------- > POOR

 Mood                                   POSITIVE <------------------------- > NEGATIVE



                1) EVALUATION- defining the problem, study your child, family reactions.

                2) REGAINING ADULT AUTHORITY- think temperament and to deal with behavior instead of responding emotionally or instinctively to what you perceive as the child's motives.  Learn to:


to become neutral in attitude, 

to think and evaluate before responding, 

to understand behavior as it is  related to temperament, 

to replace why is he doing this to me w/ how can I understand his behavior.

                3) MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES- management is different from discipline. Labeling, cooling off, sense of timing, dealing with change, eye contact, choices, introducing gradually, understanding manipulative versus temperamental tantrums.  

Engage in self-monitoring and understanding your child.

                4) FAMILY GUIDANCE

                5) SUPPORT GROUPS


Book recommendation: The Difficult Child, Stanley Turecki, M.D., Bantam Books, New York, 1989. 


(for a more extensive handout, go to...)



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            When you get a new gadget or new game, what is your instinctual reaction? a) start playing around w/it, b) read the instructions, c) have someone tell you how to do it.

            To learn how to get to somewhere new, what is your preference? a) have someone take/show you, b) look at a map, c) have someone verbally give you instructions.

            In a classroom or seminar situation what format do you prefer? a) discussion, b) visual aids, c) lecture.


            MOTOR-KINESTHETIC LEARNERS tend to favor answers (a).

                        VISUAL LEARNERS tend to favor answers (b).

                                    AUDITORY LEARNERS tend to favor answers (c).

If you favor a combination of these choices or if it is hard for you to chose one over another, then you probably have strengths in more than one learning style.


Auditory (listening)


  Spelling, Phonics, Vocabulary, Ten Verbal Excuses, Talks a lot, Reads out loud well.


  Poor Reading, Poor Following Directions, Can't Hear Differences between sounds, Says "gizmo", "whosit", Poor comprehension.


Visual (seeing)


  Enjoys books w/ pictures, Recalls location of objects, Comments on clothing, Puzzles, Drawings, Notice/comment on visual detail.


  Short attention for paper/pencil tasks, Poor printing, Poor visual memory, Poor spacing when writing, Skip words when reading aloud.


Motor Kinesthetic (movement, touch)


 Bear hugs, Thump buddies on back, Loves climbing-never spills, Touch everything, Makes airplanes & fans from paper, Loves clay, sandbox.


 Illegible handwriting, Dislikes drawing, Awkward, clumsy, Poor speech, Lacks interests other than TV, Exhibit body tension.


Many of the children who can't sit still, are always touching things, and tantruming that you have difficulty with in the classroom or at home have strong motor-kinesthetic tendencies.  Traditional classroom teaching is largely visually oriented.  Most teachers are visual learners, and thus, visual teachers.


As you recognize the learning style of each child, you can teach to that style; and you can help the child learn how to compensate for learning style weaknesses.  Examples are:

            Auditory learners and knowing the time;

            Motor-kinesthetic learners and touching inappropriately or violating personal space;

            Visual learners and short  pen-pencil attention span.


Creating ways for and allowing the high energy, moving, touching motor-kinesthetic child to satisfy these needs prevents the frustration of being unable or not being allowed to met these needs in a strongly visually or auditorially oriented program.  And, once these needs are satisfied, the motor kinesthetic child is better able to attend, to sit quietly, to not touch and so forth.  In other words, what is seen as "giving in" to the child is really a means to bring him/her into the group.


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  Social Cues- 

     13 Reasons People Miss Social Cues (with Interventions)

dvd  on this topic is available at

Individual suffer many negative consequences from missed social cues, especially non-verbal social cues critical to interpersonal communication.  Facial cues include muscle tension or relaxation around the eyes and mouth, and tilting, leaning, or nodding ones head.  Additional communication mix and match from combinations of changes in breathing, expansive to very slight movements of the hands, arms, body, and legs. Learning disabilities, ADHD, Aspergers, and gifted abilities can cause misinterpretation of non-verbal social cues.  Placing these challenges among other issues affecting social cues recognition can lead to differentiated interventions for supporting children.  There at least thirteen reasons for missing social cues.


1.   Aspergers Syndrome

2.   Physical Disability

3.   Cross-cultural Issues

4.   Overstimulation

5.   Denial

6.   Anxiety

7.   Neurosis

8.   Disassociation

9.   Learning Disabilities

10.  Attention Deficit Disorder  (and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

11.  Intoxication/Substance Abuse

12.  Schizoid Personality Disorder

13.  Psychosis


This chart has the thirteen reasons along with accompanying implied intervention strategies.  Many reasons have significant cross-relevance to each  other.  Each issue potentially not only causes problems reading social cues, but also can stigmatize individuals as different and increase vulnerability to low self-esteem and bullying. 


(for the complete handout with graphics, go to...)


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Copyright © 2007 Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Last modified: March 11, 2013