5 Steps to Behavior Management: The Shua Structure System

Over the last 15 years I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with teachers and parents in helping them wake up and truly understand why their children behave the way that they do.

Why is it that when we are going to have a new child come into our lives most don’t take the time to read books, watch videos or take as many seminars as we should; yet when we are about to bring a new dog or cat into our home and we’ve never done this before we read, watch videos and talk to as many people as possible? It’s interesting that humans have a belief system that they’ll automatically know what to do when it comes to a child yet feel differently when it comes to a new pet.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen when it comes to raising the 21st century child is understanding how to get the child to change their behaviors. Most behavior management programs focus on how the child’s mind ‘should’ be. The problem is that every single human beings’ mind is different based on what their programming has been throughout their lifetime, but the bodies have all been designed to be the same. 

As an example of a mind exercise, I’m going to say a word and then you’ll say the first associated word that comes to your mind: If I say “Up” your response is ______?; If I say “Left” your response is ______?; If I say “Stop” your response is ______?. Did you say “Down, Right and Go”? Congratulations! You have Oppositional Defiance Disorder, aka you are a human being.

Now, let’s take a look at a body-based behavior system and try it on. The following is my 5-step program called the “Shua Structure System”.  Parts 1 & 2 will get 95% of your children to immediately follow your directions. Parts 3 through 5 are on how to get a child with the difficulty challenging behaviors (usually a King or Queen/Alpha Leader of the classroom) to actually choose to change their negative behaviors because they want to, not because you want them to. 

Step 1 – Pattern Interrupt

You 1st need to make sure that the child is paying attention to you and if they are not paying attention to you then it is not their fault.  A responsible adult doesn’t say the child isn’t listening and blame the child. Children are “listening” all the time and are simply choosing not to follow your directions.

To immediately get an entire classroom’s attention I will start singing a nursery rhyme, change my voice or do an accent, or do any animal noise to get their immediate attention. If done correctly every child looks at you immediately. This will only last 1 to 2 seconds. 

Next you do a pre frame…

Step 2 – Pre-Frame

A pre-frame is an over-the-top, obnoxious hint or que as what you want the child to do without giving a command or instruction. 

Imagine arguing with your significant other and they say to you “relax,” “calm down” or “take a breath.” What is your response? Was it the opposite of the suggested behavior? Welcome to being human.

As every child is a combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles, a combination of pre-frames may be necessary.

If the instruction that I want the child to be doing is sitting crisscross on the rug then I pattern interrupt 1st and then asked the child “do I want you standing?” in a regular tone of voice, or a “do I want you SITTING CRISSCROSS?” in a louder or sillier voice that is distinctly different from the original asking voice. That is an auditory pre-frame.

An example of a visual pre-frame is asking the child “do I want you standing?” and shaking my head back and forth, or “do I want you sitting?” and nodding my head ‘yes’ up and down repeatedly.

The 3rd pre-frame I use is one that is probably used already the most which is “I like the way!”  Again 1st we pattern interrupt to get the attention and then we say, “I like the way you’re sitting crisscross! (pointing in the direction of a child) “I like the way you’re sitting crisscross!” (pointing in the direction of another child) and magically all the kids will sit crisscross.

Step 3 – Power Look

Dr. Paul Ekman’s study of micro-expressions demonstrates how the muscles in our face show our emotions whether we try to hide them or not. When a child displays a behavior that they know will get them attention, they will look for a response from the other child or adult.

To demonstrate to that child that the behavior will get them NO response moving forward, give the child the Power Look. By looking at the top of the child’s forehead, you disconnect from their eyes and don’t get sucked in by their cuteness. 

While looking at the forehead, sing a song to yourself that will be in place of your mind that will try to sabotage you. I choose “row, row, row your boat” as my go-to song.

Acknowledge the children displaying the behaviors you want verbally and then with high fives and then Power Look the child displaying the unwanted behavior quickly (2-4 seconds tops). Then acknowledge the wanted behaviors again from the children following directions. Next go back to the child displaying unwanted behaviors and Power Look them again until the behavior stops. Keep signing your song in your head so you don’t get distracted and watch the behavior change…for the moment.

Step 4 – Unique Positive Reinforcer

Every child has a passion, especially the alpha boy and girl who spend most of their days thinking about their favorite thing to talk about. Learn about your kids’ passions and give them the opportunity to lead a “show” focused on that specific topic. Have all the kids sit on the rug and let the alpha create a show about their favorite topic.

Once the child completes the show, tell them that it is up to them if they want to do the show every day. The choice is now up to them. Tell them, “on the days you want to do the show, show me by (list all positive behaviors including new leadership behaviors they can take on) and on the days you don’t want to do the show, show me by (list all behaviors that you want them to stop doing). It’s up to them from now on to choose which behaviors will benefit them. Now it’s time for them to test you!

Step 5 – Fast Forward Testing

Even though the child will want to choose to follow your directions to get to do the show, their monkey mind will still want to test you. Let’s fast forward this test 

Step 1: Say “If you want to do your show every day after naptime, do (insert wanted behaviors).”

Step 2: Say “On the days you don’t want to do your show, do (insert behaviors you want to see stop). “

Step 3 (FFT): Say “And if you don’t believe me, do (say unwanted behaviors) and I’ll show you.” 

You will then see the child look up and to their right (Northeast). To you it will look up and to the left (Northwest). The child is picturing what it will look like when they display the unwanted behavior which would lead to them not getting to do their show that day. The child’s mindset shifts from “I have to act this way because you told me not to” to “You’re not going to trick me into losing my show.” This might be the actual first time they make a powerful choice to display the behaviors that you want them to and stop displaying the behaviors that you have been trying to get them to stop doing. 

Check out my book “Building the 21st Century Child: An Instruction Manual” for more behavior management tools for your teaching toolbox.

And check out my YouTube channel for videos of me teaching the techniques mentioned including the entire 5 steps at www.ronshualisyoutube.com 

Ron Shuali

Ron holds a Master of Education specializing in early childhood, is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, and most importantly…He is funny. His study of martial arts, yoga, reiki and improv creates hilarious and educational experiences. Ron’s team of Yenseis teach children his award-winning Yogarate® program at many preschools including the preschool at the United Nations.


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