The Kid Whisperer: How to students can become experts at being safe

Scott Ervin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I teach at an alternative school, where most students have been unable to be successful at their assigned public school and most students have at least one behavior goal in their Individualized Education Plan. I have received your training and read your book. They both have helped tremendously. Things are going well in my classroom overall, except with one student. He has threatened to punch me multiple times. As you have taught me, I delayed the learning opportunity (consequence). The problem is that he refuses to do the Delayed Learning Opportunity. What do I do now?

Answer: In the previous columns, I addressed the need for a paradigm shift before answering this question. We need to stop thinking of the refusal to do the Delayed Learning Opportunity (DLO) as a negative. This kid just needs to learn that belligerence and refusing a reasonable request from an adult authority figure does not get them out of trouble and does not get them what they want.

If a person does not learn this lesson, they cannot graduate from high school, they cannot hold a job and they cannot have positive relationships with other human beings.

Means of creating Inevitability Logistics so that kids have no choice but to learn lessons about behavior were briefly shared in the last two columns. In the last column I gave you a problem-solving DLO. This one involves the student practicing the required positive behavior.

Let’s start with delaying the learning opportunity, just like we did last time:


Kid: I will punch you right in your stupid, ugly face.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. This is rough. I’m going to help you do some learning later.

How and when we have student removed for safety reasons will have to do with a multitude of factors, including whether other students heard the threat, school policies, and of utmost importance, whether you are comfortable with the student being in your room, which may relate to whether you find this to be a real threat. I will not weigh in on this here.

Then, later, perhaps after a suspension due to school policies, or due to the fact that you need a break from the student, or due to other factors, during a non-instructional time, I would have this conversation:


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