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Using the red and green system can be quite advantageous. While there are behavior modification systems that try to rid children of their red behaviors, few make a direct attempt at teaching the green behaviors.  We cannot assume that children will eventually figure out what we want them to do; we may need to tell them and show them exactly what is expected of them.

Thus, instead of constantly telling a child “you are bad and that was inappropriate,” the child is now told that he did a red behavior, while at the same time what the green alternative would be.   This teaches children what to do instead of what not to do.  In addition, the child stops hearing that he is constantly bad and inappropriate; thus, his negative reputation can finally be discarded and replaced for a ‘green kid’ reputation. 

Most importantly, the word ‘inappropriate’ finally begins to have meaning.  For those kids who are clueless when they do the wrong thing and don’t understand why they have been consequenced, the red and green learning system helps them understand why they have gotten into trouble and what they can do about it in the future.

With this system, red behaviors are defined very objectively and concretely.  Not only is the child told precisely what he did that was “red,” but he is also explained why it is red (assuming that the child is on a high enough cognitive level that he can understand explanations.)  For example, if a child screams when he wants an ice cream, he is no longer told “That was inappropriate.”  Instead, he might be told “You just yelled.  Yelling is red.  You need to use calm words.”  Then the adult might model how to use calm words by saying “Can I please have an ice cream?” 

The red and green learning system is an educational approach to working with children with behavioral difficulties.  It incorporates teaching/learning theories that are otherwise used by special educators who teach academics.  The premise is that in the same way that 6 year olds need direct instruction in learning that 1+1=2, social skills need to be taught as directly and concretely as well.


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