Often, while supporting coaches and principals in schools across the country, I am asked the question, “Kara, do you use the 4-step model at home with your own children?” My response is an overpowered and elated “YES”! My oldest son now tells me when that I can’t give him a consequence or reward when I don’t tell him exactly what to do and use the “name stuff” (positive narration). The 4-step model works, everywhere, anytime, all of the time.
Through my growth as a mother, I have found the No-Nonsense Nurturer (NNN) Model to be my saving grace. I owe this commitment to the basic realization of “It WORKS!” I have three children, Kade – 4 ½ years, Kash – 3 ½ years and Jacee – 8 months.
A typical Saturday morning in the life of the Backman family is comprised of family time, Costco, Target and laundry. Precise directions (including directions for movement, voice, and participation) begin once my children wake up to when the car is parked and the transfer of three children into the shopping cart begins! Positive Narration immediately follows (“Kade is sitting on his bottom, Kash is facing forward”) along with an established incentive system and consequence hierarchy. As we approach the entrance to the store, it is not uncommon to receive compliments on how “well-behaved” my children are. I tell parents this: it’s simple, give children what they crave and adults reap the benefits. Set children up for success, tell them they are doing it correct, give them a consequence or a reward and always love them. This model works both in the classroom and at home.
Last Saturday, as we entered the grocery store, my oldest son was testing my directions and not listening to the positive narration. This was a bit shocking to me as he is typically my rule follower, planner, and pleaser. As I pushed the cart down the first aisle, I gave him his one and only warning. Proceeding to my next set of precise directions I simply said, “We are walking down the second aisle, each of you can quietly, from your seat point to one box of cereal that you would like and I will put it in the cart.” I began narrating Kash for quietly pointing and Jacee for quietly looking. Kade immediately threw a temper tantrum and screamed that he is tired of being quiet and picking out cereal, exclaiming “this is dumb!”. Trying to remain calm, composed, and neutral, I took him out of the grocery cart and told him to stand in his consequence spot, previously determined by both of us. I stayed in the same aisle within close proximity, as he spent 2 minutes in his time-out spot. Once the timer alarmed, I had a short conversation with him to reset expectations, narrating him as he rejoined our cart.
A few aisles later, the sweetest elderly lady approached us and inquired about my “form of discipline”. I shared with her that I don’t believe in discipline; we have made a shift in our household to set high expectations for our children while nurturing and educating them along the way. We implement the NNN 4-step model and our children thrive. Because of this implementation, they do not get in trouble at school, they have significantly decreased their arguments at home and we have built a stronger familial foundational structure. Teary eyed, she simply stated, “I wish there were more adults that knew about this model. Our world would be a better place for children.”
The kids and I continued our day in the same fashion, with me consistently using precise directions and positive narration, and my children reaping the benefits of incentives and consequences all the while building life- altering relationships through caring, love, and high expectations. Between aisle 3 and 13 of Costco, my children met my expectations with 100% fidelity and therefore earned their reward. They each picked any item under $5: Kade chose a Hot Wheel, Kash chose a banana and the three of us chose a rattle for Jacee. This felt like the best $5.00 I have ever spent!
I shared this story with the Real Time Teacher Coach that l was training last week. His response was simply, “we are going to have a family meeting tonight and we will be implementing the 4-step model in our home beginning tomorrow. Thank you Kara.”
Students often spend as much time in the classroom as they do at home, so teachers must be ready to care for their students while creating a culture of consistency and high expectations. I would strongly encourage all teachers and family members to incorporate the 4-step model into their daily time with children. It saved my life; and I know it will save yours.
by Kara Backman, Managing Associate
Kara brings a unique combination of passion and real-world experience to her work with educators. For the last fifteen years she has demonstrated her skill and dedication to underserved youth as an outstanding teacher and highly recognized principal.