When I started working with Buddha he had a hard time with self-awareness. Something that a lot of my students struggled with. He had trouble using words to express when he was angry, happy or sad. So, I immediately printed out pictures and examples of what those emotions looked like. I also created a “How do I feel” chart for his room.
Come to my surprise… it didn’t work. Which, by the way, happens all the time! Over the past few years, I have tried a bunch of different tools with children that just don’t work. Either it is too confusing, too easy, or not interesting to them. It is so important to know that every child is different and every child needs DIFFERENT TOOLS.
But, I did not give up. I reached out and spoke to Buddha’s therapist and she told me that a “feelings thermometer” has worked for her in the past. So I went home and created a visual thermometer with numbers and colors to use. This time IT WORKED! He loved using it and found it so easy. Instead of using specific words to express his anger, all he had to say was that he was “at a 10”. And instead of saying he was feeling happy or content he could say he was “at a 1”. Not only is Buddha more self-aware, but now it is easier for his parents and me to respond to his emotions (i.e. if he is at a 10 we do a set of cooldown steps that I will share in the next few weeks)
HOW TO USE THE THERMOMETER:
- Print it out and laminate it. Feel free to add other things to it if your child needs more assistance (i.e. pictures of real people angry or sad).
- Make extra copies so you can take it with you when you go out. For Buddha, I created 2 smaller versions and laminated it so he can carry it in his book bag.
- Review it with your kids. Go over the picture and explain what each number/color means. If they are feeling angry it will be at the top (in red) of the thermometer VS. if they are feeling content and happy it will be at the bottom (in green) of the thermometer. Make it clear that it is ok to feel any number.
- Ask them consistently as possible “what number are you feeling?”. It’s important to ask them this even when they are not feeling sad or angry. It’s just a good way to check in and have them practice.
- Give positive praise when they use it. Every time they honestly tell you what number they are on celebrate it! Feel free to give them points as well as an incentive.
Download the thermometer below along with a smaller version so you can travel with it 🙂
Thermometer Feelings Chart
Thermometer Travel Size
As I introduce more positive behavior tools I want to stress the importance of a TIMER. Next to laminating and using the word “flexible”, a timer is something I use all the time. And I don’t think I can stress the word all enough. I use a timer with Buddha when he needs to complete tasks like homework, reading, doing dishes or even when he needs to shower. I find timers are effective for four main reasons:
- It keeps your child on task– When a child is given a task with no time frame they usually slack off or forget about it. Having a timer keeps them going because they want to finish the task before they hear that beep.
- It requires less nagging and reminding– Instead of constantly reminding your kids to finish a task you want them to do, all you have to say is “You have 2 minutes left”
- It helps with independence– The main goal for my students is independence. I want them to be able to complete tasks on their own from homework to brushing their teeth. Once you use a timer enough, you can ask your children to use it on their own. You’ll be surprised at how much they can get done!
- It’s fun- Turn using a timer into a game. Ask your kids how much time they think they need to finish a task and respond by saying “Yeah? I bet you can do it in just __ minutes”.
How to use it:
- Introduce the timer. Explain how it will work and even model it if need be. Make it clear that different tasks will have different times.
- Use the timer as much as you can.
- Go over the time frame before beginning the activity. For example, say: “You can play outside for 10 minutes. I’m going to set the time and once it goes off you have to come in”.
- Give reminders. Make sure to remind your kids when the timer is getting low. You don’t want to add extra stress, but it is very helpful when a child knows how much time they have left. Especially if your child has a hard time with transitions (i.e. getting out of the pool, switching from iPad to reading). A simple “Hey, there is 1 minutes left” will make all the difference.
- Give positive praise! When they complete a task before the timer goes off celebrate it. It’s hard to do, so give them the praise they deserve.
- As always, be consistent. Use the timer as much as possible and remember, once the timer goes off, that’s the end. Try not to add more time.
Here is a video of me using a timer with Buddha. I tell him the set time before he begins playing and I use reminders as the timer gets closer to the end. This task would have been near impossible 6 months ago. The transition from a fun activity to work was very difficult for Buddha, but using a timer made things so much easier.
Below are two links to timers that work great with kids. The first is a basic timer, while the second is more visual.
Note- Your phone or watch can be just as effective, but it’s better to use a visual clock with your child first before moving onto a timer that only you can see.