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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

ListenListen to this

Profoundly stupid ideas

It was with great amusement and much sadness that I read Kiaras Gharabaghi's brilliant article on "Three Profoundly Stupid Ideas" in this month's CYC-Net online. The amusement comes from the simple but insightful ways the Kiaras framed the issues and smiling as I have always had the same feelings about how it is possible that so many programs fail to see such basic logic about some of the "traditional" but very harmful practices that are set up for kids and not challenged. For me, the complete lunacy of "restricting/punishing" a kid for making the decision to return to the safety of the residential program (after we tell them how safe they will be there when they first arrive) exemplified so many other of these disconnects. The sadness is that there are probably so many more examples like this that will flow from people who step back and look at some of these practices. So, I would like to strongly second Kiaras' motion that there be an international sharing of more of these stupid practices and have a forum for more to rethink some of the everyday practices.

I will offer one to the mix that I would label stupid with a capital S!

Johnny is an excellent athlete and much of his self esteem comes from his status as the captain of the center's basketball team. On the day of a big game he goes to school in the morning after learning that his mother will not have him home that weekend. He has a number of morning outbursts including throwing furniture, cursing and breaking a couple of windows. He settles down in the afternoon and shares his feelings with a trusted school Child and Youth Care worker. He returns to the unit that afternoon to find he now cannot play in the basketball that night because of his misbehavior. The workers say "I mean,how will he ever learn about the real world out there if he is allowed to behave like this and then have the privilege to play in the game. We would be rewarding bad behavior". Many programs continue to make recreation an earned privilege and continue to ignore the obvious that the "consequence" for Johnny's behavior in school has absolutely nothing to do with the issues for him. Of course, those workers will also likely pay the price later that, and blame Johnny again, when he breaks up the living unit while everyone else is playing basketball.

I just love Kiaras' willingness to put the word "stupid" to his examples.

Let's look at Johnny's case with some "anti-stupid logic"

A child has an awful day in school andfeels badlyabout his behavior and family situation. He comes back his program "caregivers" needing to feel better about himself and his life.To "help" himlearn about life and responsibility, he is denied access to exactly what would make him feel better about himself and burn off some more of the aggressive energy.


Frank Delano
New York, NY

Fellow Child and Youth Workers

I loved the article. It helped me to clarify and put into clear terms much of the diffuse discomfort I have been experiencing around the effectiveness of residential group care. Specifically I have been concerned about whether the practices of my program are indeed best practices. Though upsetting I admit I am, in a way, relieved to hear that other youth workers share in my experience; or rather, I feel less guilty.
I feel less guilty for knowing that something isn't right about behavioral contact, EBT's, etc. and not voicing my opinion strongly enough.

It is uncomfortable to openly disagree with supervisors and/or peers in the work place making it understandable if not predictable that youth workers, especially those still learning about the field, would fall in line behind practices that undermine the all-important therapeutic alliance. In my mind the practices the author discussed are products of an overarching trend toward structuring Child and Youth Care around maximized convenience for the adults involved. I believe every youth worker should, in every practice decision they make, consider who is benefiting more – youth worker or youth?

Leaders in the field repeatedly emphasize that youth workers who serve challenging youth need to respond to the emotional, social, and physical NEEDS of the young person in their care instead of reacting the disruptive surface behaviors that reflect these need. Disruptive behavior should be seen as a gift, a prized possession because it offers us a way in, a chance to touch the children with serve in a deeper, more lost-lasting way. It is true, however, that it is much easier for me to sit in the comfort of my own home, in my own bed, on my own computer and type these words than it is for me to put my words into action. That's my struggle.

Anyhow, I'll get off my soap box before it gets too big. Point is I really enjoyed the article, particularly the author's bold choice of wording. We should call such practices for what they are, stupid. Of course we approach conversations with our coworkers with much more tact than as to call their methods "stupid." However, we must not forget that in such discussions we are defending the Relationship, the essential ingredient without which all interventions are sub par if not totally ineffective.

Take good care everyone. Let's all hold each other accountable for the quality of our practice, we owe it to ourselves as professionals and, more importantly, we owe it to our kids. We can't forget we are members of a profession that in broad terms effects the evolution of society. Let's raise the bar. First we have to let everyone know we're raisin' it.

All my best.

I also read this article on profoundly 'stupid' ideas. As I believe in strength and solution focused interventions, I find it somehow amusing that we are online pointing out 'what is wrong' with the programs many of us work in. I entirely agree that we need to shift and manipulate consequences to ensure they assist the child or youth in learning. I would encourage anyone replying to this thread to add on new and inventive ideas that they have to work with these youth. I have worked in group care for almost 10 years and I have seen a more successes than failures in group care, leading me to think that we are not so 'stupid' after all. I still teach and encourage staff to find solutions based on relational Child and Youth Care, however I still believe some of these consequences teach accountability to these children and youth if they are implemented properly.

Kevin Velthuis-Kroeze

Hello Frank,

Very interesting way of assessing this article. However, based on your thinking, you think that a child that misbehaves in school needs to be rewarded when he comes home? A negative behaviour needs to be rewarded with a positive reward? An adolescent who steals in a bank, as a way to help him with his negative behaviour is by giving him money as a reward? So whenever he needs money he will go and steal from anyone because he knows that the Group Home will give him money as a discipline??

When I was a child and misbehaved in school. my caregivers always took privileges away from me. I was very upset and I wanted revenge towards anyone, but I learned not to misbehave again, because I knew the consequences. I've done very well in my life so far. This is just only an example, probably I am wrong. I still think that the Group Home did the right thing.


Hi Carm, thanks for your reply. Your point about not wanting to reward negative behavior is well taken, and that was not theintent of my suggestion for the group home.I don't necessarily feel the child should have been "rewarded" for their behavior but I do feel that, as Kiaras pointed out so wonderfully in his article, there are practices that go onin Residential programs for years that many just accept without critical thinking about it, and thenneverget challenged for their effectiveness or even logic. I also believe our work with kids who are so badly in need of nurturing, support and healing from much of the trauma they have experienced is far, far more complicated than just rewarding the good and punishing the bad. I don't suggest no consequences for this kid but the consequences should relate somehow directly to the school behavior and not take the road of taking away something that is good for him long term and will likely increase his self esteem short termand help him have a better day tomorrow.

The other major problem is that with very sophisticated and dedicated workers the odds for the consequences to actually work positively are much higher than cases where workers will "hold the penalty over the kids head" or use it as a way to feel in "control" themselves. I think discipline is good for the children we work with when applied with a strong connection to nurturing and a treatment plan (so while the taking of privileges from you as a child has worked nicely for you in your own lifeand your instinct to want revenge didn't land you in bigger trouble, residential treatment needs to be geared to setting up a plan that is best for each individual child, not be related to what worked for us as kids, or anyone else but that particular child). We probably can all agree that discipline is good for kids in care but "punishment" is not and one of the ways to differentiate is that when a consequence is given if you cannot clearly put your finger on what is good for the child in it, then it is punishment and doesn't belong in a treatment situation.

Thanks for the challenge to my thoughts, exactly what we all should be doing!

Frank Delano
New York

From: Ernie Hilton []
Sent: 26 August 2010 03:14 PM

I too read the article along with all the rest of them; love that Journal! I applauded the identification of interventions that were addressed and what needs to evolve as they have perhaps outlived their usefulness in this century. What doesn't evolve does disappear, relationships and practices included. I currently am smiling at the provocative impact and subsequent discussion that is ensuing and that has to be useful. Therefore, for those reasons the marketing of an article through a snazzy title is useful however it won't save the content and I would suggest that it was not stupid content. I was left wondering about the current methods of the relational approach that many of us support today and their subtleties; will they too be assessed as stupid in 20 years? It has been my experience that nothing ever goes away (interventions included) it simply changes in form; a Law of Nature.

Ernie Hilton
Nova Scotia, Canada

Hi all.

I also shared and sent a reply to Frank on The Residential Child Care Network (UK). Nevertheless, I, along with colleagues now when thinking about our team, include children, young people, families and staff all working together towards one common goal. We involve and allow young people to participate in our Team Meetings, allow young people to negotiate, compromise and look at different consequences, making changes does not devalue all the hard work that has taken place in the past, to move forward you need to be brave to be bold. Shared ownership of not only the distress and anger young people manifest but also how we as a staff team cope, support and address behaviour that is damaging to the young person requires a more deeper judgement than a sanction that only makes the staff member feel good. In short, being punitive never solves any problem in the long term, engagement and supporting the underlying and pre-disposing factors that lead to the behaviour will always bear more fruit in the short and long term.


Neil Gray

Many years ago I worked in a group home in England. I have often thought of how much more effective I could have been given my life experience now.

Back then, I subscribed to the "misbehaviour equals punishment" headspace that pretty much made deeper levels of connection with the youth impossible; levels of emotional connection that I didn't realize could exist. I followed protocol and guidelines and didn't question the "stupid practices" we all subscribed to.

What I have come to understand, mostly from being a parent, is a pretty simple concept. Children from happy homes misbehave to test boundaries, there exists a knowledge that they are loved, welcome, and safe. Children in group homes misbehave because they have been neglected, abused, and given away. These children deal with a level of pain that I will never experience or completely empathize with. I believe that my job is to teach children how to succeed in their adult form. I believe that my job is to model compassion and recognize my short-comings. Punishment comes in many forms and I need to separate my need for retribution and try to understand the why's of the behaviour. Oftentimes, teaching a child how to make a wrong better is more effective than a contract punishment.

Kevin Velthuis-Kroeze wrote that we need to respond to a child's needs. His knowledge that as Child and Youth Care workers we can affect the evolution of society is pretty profound. But we can't do it alone.


Wonderful example from Frank. I'll add one.

A child/youth suffers from a severe challenge of ADHD. He gets yelled at from the time he gets up (and gets continually distracted while getting ready for school) and all day at school (where his problems with inhibiting his attention, motor activity and emotional responses) get him in "trouble".

When he comes home, he rushes to the room where he can play a video game – a game in which his self esteem can be restored since his deficits in other areas are a benefit in a game with multiple things to pay attention to and where his hyperactivity will grant him a good score. Finally, he can feel competent. However, since he arrived home from school with a note about his many problems that day, he is denied the "privilege" of playing video games.

In other words, it will be a "privilege" to restore his self esteem and feel competent. We can guess how he will spend his time instead. And like some of the respondents to this series, some will Child and Youth Care will say "that's what he gets" and feel okay. Stupid.

Lorraine Fox

An interesting discussion and article, and for the most part I'm in agreement. I think the behavioral contract culprit in my recollection was a psychologist though. Very few CYC's employed in group homes can afford cars that come with contracts. I haven't worked directly in a group home since 1978. I was 21, freshly graduated from a 2 yr. Child Care Program, passionate, naive and STUPID. We all were. We lived in for 3 days and 2 nights on a six day rotation, with either 5 adolescent males, or 7 adolescent females, and were paid a pittance. Within 8-9 months the staff body had completely changed. It's my opinion that group home care is undervalued, (much like the children/youth it is supposed to serve, and the usually young, ideal and naive people who try to serve them) and underfunded. It's a long time ago, but memory has it that we were less likely to use EBT's Behavioral Contracts, and punishing return runaways.

These things seem to me to be more common in more institutional settings I've worked in since, i.e residential treatment centres, mental health settings, and thought they're brought to bear by CYC's they are often the suggestion of our colleagues like psychologist and psychiatrist. I have memories from all of these settings of youths being "on the run", and being very worried about them, and 3-4 instances where things went very badly for some of them while on the run.

I agree that these "interventions" are stupid, and I'd probably add trying to take all the sharp's in the world away from someone who cuts. "Stupid is as stupid does" though. I'm sure all of us have engaged in stupid interventions, even the author of the article, and we learn from them by examining them and the broader contexts in which they occur. Our age, our experience, our education, the system we work in and the hierarchies/systems that fund and govern them/us.

Michael Wattie

A reply to Carm's comments...I believe that if a child misbehaves in school, that the discipline should occur at school, not at home. We do not discipline criminals twice for the same crime, why would we discipline children or youth twice for the same misbehaviour. I am replying to this from the combined perspective of a parent with both average children and a special needs child, as well as someone who has completed a bachelor's in Child and Youth Care and working in the field of mental health. As long as the parent or care giver backs up the school's disciplinary action, the youth has already paid the price for misbehaving and the follow-up at home should be a conversation about what they did and why the action was taken.

Why are we not asking the youth why they did what they did and what they were thinking? As we learn in our studies, human behaviour makes sense and it is up to us to find out the why and how with each youth that we work with and relate to.

Nancy McManus

Just thinking about Frank Delano's situation with Johnny.

So let's look at it. Johnny's mother handed him a profound disappointment--his mother won't have him home the coming weekend. Whatever her reasons, whatever the circumstances, the message is pretty clear--something is more important than you or your needs or desires.

Johnny feels bad. Real bad. Hurt. Angry. Emotions he cannot handle. Johnny has perhaps learned that it is bad for him to become angry. Especially, he should not be angry at his mother. Perhaps he has learned that children who feel angry at their mothers deserve to be punished, since children do not have the right to be angry with their mothers. So he behaves in ways to get the punishment he feels he deserves. Throwing furniture. A bad thing but you can set it back up. Cursing. Another bad thing. But neither of these things merits the punishment he feels he deserves. Then he breaks some windows. That does it. Can't fix them so easily.

And so he returns to the group home and is grounded and can't play in the basketball game on the team for which he is the captain. Carm suggests that allowing Johnny to play in the game would be rewarding him for his bad behavior. I agree that his behavior was really bad. Just because his mama disappointed him did not give him the right to bust up the property of someone else.

However, as captain, he has a responsibility to his team. His behavior in school, his failure to behave responsibly in school, has nothing to do with that responsibility, which he has apparently handled quite well. Taking away a responsibility he can handle as a punishment for a responsibility he cannot handle seems counter therapeutic to me.

Children who become angry sometimes feel they deserve to be punished and often behave in ways to get the punishment they feel they deserve. They often escalate their behavior until they get 'enough' punishment. After all, people who are feeling really bad are not so likely to do good things as people who are feeling really good. But what does this punishment mean? What does it accomplish? How do you punish a masochist? How do you punish someone who feels they deserve punishment???

The real consequences of Johnny's behavior are important. First, he no doubt embarrassed himself in front of peers and teachers. Second, he disrupted the school. Third, he damaged some property that was not his. The appropriate consequences have to do with repairing the harm. Such things as apologizing to teachers and peers are a start. (We aren't supposed to force kids to apologize where I come from, but we don't have to stop them should they feel the need to do so.) Taking some responsibility for repairing the broken windows is also appropriate. It is unlikely that he can repair the windows or pay for the full cost of repair, but he can help.

Meanwhile, not allowing him to meet responsibilities he is capable of meeting (serving as captain of the basketball team) just seems wrong to me. It is there that he learns to accept unpleasant decisions by others (a foul called be a ref who made a mistake -- they do sometimes and you can't throw a tantrum), teamwork and responsibility to others (in this case teammates, in school, classmates), and so much more.

I suspect on some level he wanted to be punished. I also suspect that punishing him is not a good idea in this situation. I know that Carm got punished in his group home. I just wonder where he learned more -- from the punishment, or from caring staff who taught him in spite of the punishment.

John Stein
New Orleans

Dear Everyone,

I have to admit that I have not yet read Kiaras Gharabaghi's article but I am now about to do so. In response to Carm's point about the risks of rewarding negative behaviour. I think when a troubled child makes a mistake – say for instance he misbehaves at school – before we address the misbehaviour, (and dealing with it right away may not be the best idea), the child has first to know that he or she is valued and is a loved and cared about. It seems to me that it is very very important in such an instance first of all to give a big boost to a child's feelings of self worth. It is, in my view, in this way that he or she will be best helped not to become a bank robber. If anyone at Summerhill School was discovered to have stolen money – and this usually only involved newcomers to the school – AS Neill would give them more money firstly to acknowledge to the child that Neill knew that he or she must have a much deeper emotional need, secondly to suggest that money in itself has no value compared to what we feel about each other and thirdly to imply that if you asked for something directly or by negotiation rather than steal it, ways can be found for you to receive it legitimately without any of the negative consequences of feeling guilty or being blamed or being labelled as a bad person.

Best wishes,
Charles Sharpe

Kiaras has produced a provocative piece of work and Frank has rightly picked it up and ran with it. Thanks to you both.

A few years ago I supported development of a behaviour management plan for a service user who today I shall call Kevin.

Kevin displayed specific challenging behaviours in a situation he found particularly stressful. The workers looking after him devised a programme to gradually increase his coping skills and develop appropriate behavioural responses by phased exposure to the stressor. When all went well they finished off with a cup of coffee and a cream cake at a café. That was the easy part as Kevin loves a cup of coffee and a cream cake and to make it easier still one of the workers would already be in the café, waiting at a table with the coffee and cake ready. They would all sit round the table and congratulate Kevin on his successful coping behaviour.

When things started to go pear shaped and Kevin displayed the challenging behaviour the workers quickly exited with him and rushed the café to get a cup of coffee and a cream cake!

There was no thought that the coffee and cake were a reward for success that should be withheld as a consequence for challenging behaviour. They would all sit round the table commenting on how badly things had gone but at least they were able to come somewhere nice in spite of it all and have a cup of coffee and a cream cake.

Withholding the coffee and cake as a consequence would only have served to make Kevin feel worse about himself and in turn, worse about the staff who had made him feel worse. Some people would call this “rewarding bad behaviour”. I would call it “non-contingent availability of relationship reinforcers”.
Some might reverse the logic and call it “profoundly stupid” but I would call it “counter intuitive”. Failure to apply "anti-stupid logic" reduces our professional success rate unacceptably.

I heard nothing more about any difficulties staff had working with Kevin because they had learned that behaviour change is preferable to behaviour management and found that the key to behaviour change lies in the quality of the relationship between Kevin and themselves. They stopped doing the kind of things that hid the key by undermining that relationship. They had discovered the power of "anti-stupid logic".

Ni Holmes

Hello everyone,

In residential programs I've worked in or visited there is usually a consequence board or there is some way of recording consequences in staff logs, etc. And the consequences are often EBTs, loss of privileges, loss of points on a level system, etc. I would offer that most of this "structure" is more for the benefit of the adults than the children or youth. I thought discipline was intended to teach a young person how to behave. EBTs, loss of privileges, etc. are not discipline but rather punishment. Whether it's children or youth I've worked with or now that I am a parent with my own kids I have yet to experience a young person learn the lesson I was hoping they would learn from punishment.

In fact, punishment (along with nagging, complaining, criticizing, shaming, blaming, threatening and bribing to name a few disconnecting habits) pushes the young person further away when what we are endeavoring to do is develop a rapport and relationship. No relationship = no influence. I know of a group home like many others where they had their consequence board in the staff office. The program was going through a transition in terms of their approach to working with youth and it was decided by the majority of the staff and management to get rid of the consequence board. The most senior staff nearly quit because she believed that getting rid of the board meant getting rid of discipline, accountability and responsibility for the young people residing in the home. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I think that in most cases the "consequence" should be sitting down with a staff and processing what happened and how the young person could handle the situation more effectively the next time. Isn't that what child and youth counseling is supposed to be all about?

Gordon White
Ontario, Canada

Hi Guys, I have said this before in a previous thread but the most effective sanction is more face to face contact with staff doing fun things. I would select the staff members that most support punitive sanctions and pair them with the child they most often scapegoat and tell them to go and have fun doing stuff together.

Sanction based programmes evolve out of fear, lack of leadership, loss of autonomy and a lack of clarity over what exactly is the nature of the caring task. Occasionally a Fascistic manager can get under the radar and impose a punitive system and get away with it as good people do nothing. This thankfully is rare in my experience.

Jeremy Millar

The most profoundly stupid idea or statement I have heard was during my initial orientation in a group care home was that the children that we cared for were already "damaged" so we could not "damage" them anymore. Since that

time 15 years ago, the children, youth and families I have been honoured to work alongside with have taught me so much and redefined my practice from those first years. Yes, we can do harm to the children and youth that come into our care. With my practice focused in an attachment framework every moment spent with a child is valuable and can do harm if we are not cognizant of our words and body language and everything that is exchanged. A term used in RAP training and Circle of Courage is "bidding and collecting".

Very powerful!

Monica Metzler

Nicely put Gord. I agree with you.

Nancy McManus

Processing is great. It is how we should teach and how we learn. However, we must also teach the reality to kids that their actions do produce results that will either be positive or negative (pending on what it is they decide o do or say). I don't know about you, but if I run a red light and cause an accident, I don't think the police officer, judge, DA, insurance agent, etc. is going to sit down and process with me what I can learn from the incident and what I could do different next time. Most likely I'll get a ticket, probably have to go to court, pay a fine, maybe lose my license, insurance, and may even spend time in jail if someone was killed or seriously injured in the accident I caused by my actions (like texting while driving, or whatever it ws I chose to do). As the old adage goes: Experience is a great teacher. We actually learn from consequences. As a matter of fact we learn a lot from the "prices we have to pay" for our decisions and actions.

If we fail to teach kids this basic principle we only deceive them into thinking that anytime they do something inappropriate someone will "sit and talk to them to process what they are going to do next time". Nothing else will happen. This will only lead to a big wake up call for them when they are outside of our care because the big world doesn't work like that.

However I do want to reiterate that consequences are not the same as "punishment". Punishment is rarely effective but consequences can be very effective in teaching life lessons. However understanding of those consequences is also important, thus the need for "processing". Sometimes kids just don't connect the dots on their own, that's where child care workers come in. Helping kids connect the dots and see and understand the effects their decisions and actions have on not only their present situation but their future and how their actions affect others around them. They (the kids) are more in control of their lives than they think. They just need someone to help them understand that and sometimes (actually most of the
time) that means they need to see the result of their actions (known as "consequences"). Positive consequences for positive actions and decisions, negative consequences for negative decisions and actions. It works.

Angie Courville

Hi all,

Consequence and level boards rarely work in the long term and are a quick and easy way for the individual staff member to assert some type of power over the child. They can also be used for favouritism and oppression.

Just for one week, one week only, remove all sanctions and consequences boards and actually talk to the young people, look more closely at the what, when and where. Allow some type of resolution, compromise and negotiation.

Children and young people will respect and learn more when we are less judgemental, punitive and more able to engage face to face on what actually matters.

Neil Gray

Indeed. How many homes with children do we go into and find the "consequence board" instead of pictures on the refrigerator??

Lorraine Fox

I've supervised child and youth institutions for 30 years now, and the discipline discussion keeps coming up, masked as "consequence paedagogics" and other names.

A lot of care practice still stems from the outdated ideas of Skinner about reward and punishment as re-inforcing behavioral instruments. The problem is that Skinner was wrong: reward and punishment have been studied to give an even poorer outcome in deprived and maltreated children because their ability to learn from experience is much lower than that of secure and healthy children.

Many youth institutions turn into prisons because of the severe problems attachment disordered children expose. This results in a high anxiety level in staffs and a need for experienced control. (coming from a deep loss of the sense of mastering the situation).

The staff anxiety issue should be taken seriously, and it requires constant work and good cooperation to be clear, firm and empathic at the same time. It is in fact one of the greatest problems for abandoned youth that their behavior produces fear and myths in their care givers.

If you want to use this experience, have a look at this book: , especially the third part about organizational issues in care.

Yours Niels Rygaard,

Amen ... awesome awesome ... when I was working in a group home, not that long ago, I found myself feeling bound, stifled and unheard for the ideas I would put forth to 'higher ups' as ways to connect with the youth ... one beautiful staff member took the chains off for a day and heard my call ... we took the youth on a hiking trek into the river valley trails...they took pictures, chased squirrels and brought back rocks! What fun! Where others might see only 'damaged' I SEE POSSIBILITY !!!

Be well all !!

Linda McKeen

Hi all,

It's not rocket science, and you're right with the Skinner model, poverty and deprivation require a higher level of responsiveness to individualised engagement with young people. Much of the difficulty is not with staff, it is in fact poor management, supervisors who are caught up with not wanting to change routines and power structures.

Give staff and young people more involvement in real decision making and autonomy and you will begin to notice a great deal of change not only in the young people but in practitioners' confidence and ability to share goodand bad practices.

Challenge your supervisor, the buck stops here!

Neil Gray

I agree with what Niels Rygaard said, with one exception. I don't think it's the outdated ideas of Skinner that are the problem. Rather, I think it's a misinterpretation of Skinner's work, turning his science into an ideology (a system of largely unexamined beliefs). I don't think Skinner ever advocated rewarding and punishing children. Here's something he wrote about punishment:

"The old school made the amazing mistake of supposing...that by removing a situation a person likes or setting up one he doesn’t like–in other words by punishing him–it was possible to reduce the probability that he would behave in a given way again. That simply doesn’t hold. It has been established beyond question...We are gradually discovering–at an untold cost in human suffering–that in the long run punishment doesn’t reduce the probability that an act will occur." B.F. Skinner in Walden Two (1948).

He called it an 'amazing mistake.' Kind of like a 'profoundly stupid idea.'

I was reading a brief article a few weeks back in which a psychologist was offering tips for parents to help their children succeed in school. He said homework, studying, issues with teachers and peers are the kids'
responsibilities, not the parents'. Parents should act as coaches, giving advice and guidance. I really liked it, until he added ..."setting standards and applying consistent consequences." It seems we just can't get away from people telling parents, teachers, and others that 'applying consistent consequences' is one of the most important things they can do.

At which point I want to scream, "NO!!!!!"

The discussion has been great. Kudos to Nancy McManus for challenging the ever-popular 'If my parents found out I got punished in school, when I got home I got it again.' I had a parent telling me with fond memories of how he always 'got it again' when he got home. Thought it was good for him. A few sentences later he was bragging about what a holy terror he was throughout his school years. Hmmmm.

John Stein
New Orleans

Hello All,

I read with frustration and disappointment regarding thoughts on managers in residential child care. I have been a residential worker for many years and also have managed and continue to manager residential units. I work with a great staff team who like and support my style of management, who have grown and developed since i have challenged them to think out the stereotypical box of residential child care. I see nervousness at times of having autonomy to try new things and not always having to "check" things out with me as this previously was lacking. Residential child care has moved on I see no hierarchy of me being the manager, we are all in it together if not it is the young people who suffer from power struggles, piggy in the middle and losing out on the richness a positive staff team provides. I hope staff take hope and recognise there are positive managers out there who want staff to succeed and provide a good care experience for young people. Managers need staff and staff need managers, and if not, who cares for the young people?
Residential care provides many challenges without animosity between the team. Too often young people witness this disharmony at home.

And to John Stein ...

Hi John

Consequences what would we do without them! Lots is my answer. When I arrived at my new children's house I was overwhelmed at the folder which contained the young people's sanctions. As a new manager I knew the folder had to go and be replaced with something more positive. I feel strongly staff are selling themselves short by using consequences; they have much more experience than they give themselves credit for in dealing with thechallenging behaviour which often results in a consequence. I took the folder away, we worked with the behaviour and, don't get me wrong, we still set boundaries to keep young people safe and secure. But gone was the punitive, monetary way of "pissing" the young people off. Relationships were re-engaged and to date staff are still taking time out to explore to the young person's behaviour. The evidence is in: the "sanction" tin remains empty and no more money will be put in it. The tin is gone and we have a rewards folder.


Cudos Janis.
Lorraine Fox

Janis wrote "I read with frustration and disappointment regarding thoughts on managers in residential child care." Can you direct me to this article on residential managers?



Hello there Janis, my old friend!

I am so in agreement with your ideals and approach. I believe it is derived from an inherent humility within a manager at a basic human being level. There is no need to crave power and status as a result. This allows for full development of staff skills which can only benefit our kids.

It was lovely to read your thoughts.

Jamie McAnally

I read, smile and agree in full. Relationships are based on a two way street, a small achievement to a young person should be regarded as a mountain and rewarded every step of the way. Some will say, when do we stop rewarding, the answer, "you don't". Spending more time on devloping the relationship is critical for everyone .......

Neil Gray :-]

I would like to add that giving a consequence often means giving up on the youth. It means that you believe he is incompetent. It also means you have taught nothing and he will most likely repeat the behavior. We also have next to no consequences that we provide. We try to come to an understanding or agreement with the youth right then and there.

Alfonso Ramirez

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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