Hindsight is 20/20

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“I wasn’t very good when I was in Kindergarten.” Catelyn stated very matter of factly, while blankly staring at the TV, “I got on yellow 18 times.”

Yellow.  The color change the teacher used as a warning.  Not as bad as red – a trip to the principal’s office.  But less than green – status quo.

The fork that was headed for my mouth fell to my plate.  I looked at Bobby and I saw his dropped jaw mirrored my own.

“Wait…..what?  There’s no way.” I flustered and tried to regain my composure.  I found my dropped fork and gathered more food onto it for another bite.

“Yes,” Cate continued.  “18 times.  I had to keep count.”

“Well, surely someone else got on yellow more times than you,” I offered, crossing my fingers under the dinner table.  Don’t all kids have A LOT to learn in Kindergarten?  Right?  I mean, 20 must be the norm.

“Nope.  I was the baddest kid in all of Kindergarten.”

Oh no.  Really?

My husband returned to the dinner table and I told him the news.  Catelyn got on yellow 18 times in Kindergarten.

“What?  Catelyn, I can’t believe you got on yellow that many times.”

Catelyn put her fork down and cocked her head to the side.

“I told you guys every time I got on yellow.  It is not my fault that you didn’t keep count.”


Touché, Catelyn.  Touché


Through the years I have written down funny conversations I have had with the kids.  I read through one of my books and found this conversation we had with Cate when she was 6 and in the first grade.

After I read the words I smiled.  She was such a hoot – so matter of fact.

And then I started to think back.  Oh – hey wait a second…

Hindsight is 20/20.

Cate was in daycare until she was three.  My last yearly review about Cate’s progress started with a deep sigh and a, “Welll…..Catelyn is a real handful.  She can be really difficult.”

I began the role of a stay at home mom shortly thereafter and she started preschool.  That meeting started the same way.  Except that teacher – well her eyes could get bigger.  I thought it was her super human trait.

But to me, it was simple.

“They don’t like my Catelyn.  Well pooh on them.”

Of course, the years never got easier for her.  She continued to have behavior problems.  She had many color changes.  One of the few students sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior.

Knowing now that Cate is on the autism spectrum, I am left to wonder – Was it always bad behavior?

Was she trying to disobey?  Did she know she was being bad?  Would she have done better if she were supported earlier instead of considered a behavior problem?

I bet the teachers were just as frustrated as I was when they realized discipline doesn’t work for Cate.  That message doesn’t resonate with her.  She will hand over her beloved device to me as easily as she would give up playground time, I am sure.

I can’t change the past.  I am thankful she is getting help now and I can advocate for her to those that work with her.

The best way to get the best out of Cate?  Praise her for all she is doing right.  Let her know what you expect of her, and praise her every time she succeeds.  She will SHINE when praised.

The color change still means nothing to her.  Getting sent to the principal’s office is not effective.

“That is AWESOME Cate!  Way to go!”

That’s the ticket!


16 thoughts on “Hindsight is 20/20

  1. Great story Robyn, I’ve always thought that there is no such thing as a naughty child , just a misunderstood one. 😊 Do you ever feel you were meant to experience Autism to lead others into a better understanding. You are doing an amazing job. I admire you so much ❤️

  2. I was good friends with the principal while I was in grade school. He knew I always told him the absolute truth! He and I worked to improve the problems with other children on the bus I rode to and from school (an hour each way). This was long before having monitors or video recordings of the ride. Had one driver that wouldn’t listen to the advice I gave him that the road would be too muddy to travel down due to the recent rains. So we made it only about 2 seconds before getting bogged down in the sticky mud. Which meant another bus had to come rescue us. Ended up being several hours late for school that day and covered with mud!

  3. I hear you on the discipline thing. My son is like Judd Nelson on the Breakfast Club. If you can dish the punishment out, he’ll take it. Very frustrating because he’s just hurting himself. I think there is very little bad behavior in children. Acting “out” is just acting in the way that is natural for the child. And then we try to shove them in a mold.

  4. Hi Robyn. I think ALL people, child or adult, shine when you praise their efforts and progress. This is a good lesson for all people to learn and understand. You are very strong and understanding, I wish I had half of your strength with children and adults.

    1. I agree – I see such a tremendous difference especially for Cate. I always hated when a teacher called me out for something I did bad, so it blew my mind when it didn’t bother Cate at all. But I have found if the teacher gives Cate a list of “do’s” – and then points out how Cate is doing everything right and praises her – Cate is more likely to listen. Which I think you are right – people will shine when you priase them! Praise is so powerful! You are so kind – thank you!

  5. Positive reinforcement is what we’re working on here at the moment. My breakfast club children have been fighting a lot! Yesterday we all sat together and I they shouted out good positive behaviours and I wrote them down. Also going to tie in with some sort of reward system. This morning they still fought 🙁 We’ll keep at it with the praise and hopefully things will turn around. I know that this works far better than a telling off.

    1. Aggh – way to try the positive approach, though! I agree – much better than a telling off. Hopefully things will turn around tomorrow!

  6. It’s not only children; adults too perform better when praised. Negative reinforcement, in general, are known to be less effective than positive ones. We learn that in business schools today during organizational behavior and HRM courses. If the lessons are true when dealing with adults, it’s silly to expect otherwise of children.

    1. I agree – I am amazed how many teachers still operate with such a heavy “negative reinforcement” hand. Praise is so much better!

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