How to Apologize to Your Students

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am a sixth-grade student teacher. Because I attended your conference last summer, I am the only adult at my urban school who doesn’t yell all day long, every day. It’s been amazing. That was, until yesterday. I was with a sub when my cooperating teacher was out. The students got out of control because the work left for them was three grade levels too difficult. I lost it and yelled at them – a lot. They had never heard me yell, and they did what I said, but they acted very hurt and/or angry the rest of the day. What do I do when I see them after the weekend? I have been asking the other teachers and everyone says not to apologize. What do you think? -Brad, Fort Wayne, Indiana

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How to Deal With a Kid Who is Addicted to Screens

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My seven-year-old son loves his iPad so much that he has started to ignore the rest of the world. He doesn’t care about anything else. We recognized this as a problem, but my husband and I have had a very hard time taking the iPad away. My son goes into hysterics when we do, and he will scream and yell until he gets it back. We went to family therapy about this. We tried talking to him about how using the iPad so much is bad for him and how he should play outside, or go to a friend’s house, etc. This does not help. What should we do?    -Tana, Des Moines, Iowa

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How to Troubleshoot When Consequences Don’t Seem to be Working

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I attended your Kid Whisperer University last summer. I am struggling with the delayed consequences skill. For most students, the interventions are working well. The students for whom I need to delay consequences are repeat offenders. It’s typically attention seeking kids that are abrasive with any type of authority. They are constantly searching for the grey area and loopholes in rules and directions. Do you have any suggestions?  -Scarlet, Shaker Heights, Ohio

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How to Handle a Kid Who Refuses to Wear a Coat

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My four-year old loves to go out and play outside without a coat or long pants, even when it is 5 degrees out. I used to yell at him and lecture him. Then a friend told me I should just let the natural consequence of being cold happen so that he would get cold enough and put on appropriate clothing. I tried that. He went outside for 45 minutes straight in 5-degree weather and played happily. Thinking that someone would call children’s services on me, I had him come inside and forced him to put on winter clothes while we yelled at each other. Now what? -Jeanne, St. Paul, MN


This was a quality first attempt on your part. Experimenting with letting a natural consequence take its toll was a good idea, even if it backfired. Your kid has developed a super-human ability to withstand cold temperatures due to some combination of two factors:

  • He genuinely is not bothered by cold, choosing instead to concentrate on shiny objects and how quickly he can freeze his snot


  • He wants to show you how TOTALLY WRONG you were about forcing him to wear a jacket.

You have managed to give him the Holy Trinity of Kid Behavior: You gave him

  • Attention
  • Emotion
  • The Thing He Wanted

He achieved all of this just by dressing like a Hawaiian surfer in the snow. For a young kid who is figuring out who and what he’s in charge of, this is pretty powerful.

No worries. Let’s fix him.

Here’s how I would handle your kid if he tried to walk into a blizzard dressed like Jimmy Buffet.

Notice how I don’t give him any of The Trinity. This includes the fact that I don’t give him attention even in the form of an explanation for my rules regarding cold weather clothing. Also, notice that I am expecting his behavior to get worse before it gets better.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. What are you forgetting?

Kid: I am going outside without a coat because I am a Greek god and impervious to the earthly elements.

Kid Whisperer: You can go outside as soon as you are wearing your pants, winter coat, a hat, and gloves.

Kid: Aries needs no such items!

Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?

Kid: I banish you to Hades!!!!! (Kid attempts to run out the door)

Kid Whisperer: Oh, drat. (Kid Whisperer physically stops Kid from escaping, gently placing Kid just inside the door while Kid Whisperer stands in front of that door wearing a smile)

Kid Whisperer: (Still smiling) And what did I say?

Kid Whisperer repeats this process and does not deviate from the last question in response to Kid’s protests, arguments, and claims of ancient, divine providence.

Kids have a fantastic sense of the inevitable. When they truly know that they will not get what they want with a behavior, they will do what you want them to do– immediately after exhausting all other options.



How to Train your Kids to Remember the Things they Need

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am so tired of taking things to my kids after they forget them at home. So far I have delivered a cheerleading outfit, homework folders, and yesterday, I delivered basketball shoes. No matter how much I remind them, they still forget everything. I can’t let my kids not have these things. They need them so they can participate in activities, school, and sports. I also don’t want to keep driving 15 minutes one way to school three times a week because they can’t remember anything. Please help.

-Beth, Des Moines, Iowa

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How to Minimize Attention to Negative Behaviors

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am a kindergarten teacher. I have a well-behaved class except for one student. He is impulsive, he touches people, he blurts out, he takes materials from other students. I feel like I am constantly saying his name to tell him to stop doing all of these things. I think I spend 30% of all of my time talking to this student about what he is doing wrong, and his behavior just keeps getting worse. What do I do? -Kimberly -Des Moines, Iowa

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How to Handle an Unmedicated Student

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am a third-grade teacher and I have a student who is medicated for attention and behavior problems. He is generally fine when he has taken his medicine, but he is totally out of control when he doesn’t. My principal and I have tried everything to try to get his parent to give him his medicine every day. I know the behaviors will get worse when there are no consequences for his actions, whether he is on his medication or not. I don’t know what to do. -Mary, Biloxi, Mississippi

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