A behaviour problem is just a new skill to learn.

Dr Ben Furman recently led Kids’ Skills training in Lincolnshire, as part of the Local Authority’s strategy to promote inclusion through relational, strengths-based and solutions-focused support for pupils. This redacted child’s plan, from Brant Broughton Primary, was written soon after the training. With guidance notes beneath it, also produced by the school, it needs no explaining. Shared with the school’s permission, we love it!

Kids Skills Plan for ‘Ben’

Skills to be developed
Ben struggles with sharing during a game at playtime or lunchtime – it could be choosing who will do the throw-in during football or sharing a set of scales to weigh things in maths.
Name the skill
Taking it in turns
Benefits of the skill
Being able to play with others and others being more willing to play with him. Avoiding conflicts that end the game or activity. Developing friendships.
Supporters (adults’ real names)
‘Ben’ named Mrs. Jackson (TA), Mrs. Bedford ((HT), Mrs. Botham (classteacher). Ronan (Life mentor) Also ‘Jake, Bailey, Kyle, Brad’.
How confident are we that the skill will be achieved?
We discussed Ben’s successes to date. His improved attitude to school in general; his willingness to persevere when he finds some aspects of learning hard; his ability to walk away when he has lost his temper; his quicker periods of calming down and being willing to apologise.
Ben chose a chocolate cake with chocolate sponge and icing!
Demonstrate the skill
Ben went outside to join his class playing rounders and was able to take turns doing this.
Go public
We went and found the children who are his supporters & Ben told them what his skill is & how they can support him & be part of his celebration.
Practice the skill
See notes below
What to do if you forget the skill
Ben asked his supporters to whisper his skill in his ear to remind him of what it is.
Teach it
Next skill to learn:

Guidance Notes
1. If the child has problems, convert them into skills the child can learn. Remember that a skill is not the ability to NOT DO the wrong thing but the ability to do the right thing instead.

2. Let the child participate in the discussion about the skill to learn and agree this together. Children are often well aware of what skill they should improve.

3. Let the child give the skill a cool name. If necessary, help the child in finding a name for his skill or have him ask his peers to come up with a suitable name.

4. Let the child come up with a power animal or another creature that will help him to learn that skill. Ask him to draw or get hold of a picture of it and let him tell you how it will help him in learning the skill.

5. Explain to the child, and ask others to explain too, what benefits there are for the child and to other people of him mastering the skill. When he has heard what other people have to say about the benefits of the skill, let him add what he himself considers to be the main benefits of the skill.

6. Help the child recruit a number of supporters, adults as well as other children. When pupils accept to become supporters, they can show this by writing their names onto the child’s poster or into his skills book. Supporting the child means that the supporter observes the child’s progress, showing admiration for success and writing notes about the child’s proficiency onto his poster or into his skills book.

7. Tell the child what makes you confident that he will learn the skills and ask others to do this too. When the child has heard what others have said, let him tell you why he himself is confident he will learn the skill.

8. Plan in advance with the child how you will celebrate when he has learned the skill.

9. In order for the child to practice the skill, you will need to find a way in which he can demonstrate how skillful he already is. Talk with the child about how a person who masters that skill well behaves in various situations and let him show you in a role-play what that means in practice. This way you and the child will develop ideas of how he will be able to rehearse his skill in practice.

10. Help the child go public about his skill. You can ask him to tell everyone about the skill he is learning but the best way to go public is to let the child put a poster on the wall which, in addition to his name, says who his supporters are and what skill he is learning. The poster can also have a picture of his power animal as well as a list of the central benefits of the skill. In addition to the poster, the child should also have a skills book, a notebook about his project that he can show to his supporters and into which his supporters can write notes about their observations of his skillfulness.

11. Have the child practice his skills, preferably on a daily basis, by giving him opportunities to show other people how good he already is at doing his skill while others respond by showing him their appreciation. For this you may need to create a role-play of some kind through which the child can demonstrate his skillfulness. Another alternative is that you agree with the child that his supporters will pay attention to his behaviour and take notes of the times he spontaneously shows mastery of his skill.

12. It is easier to learn new skills than try to get rid of problems, but it is still not all that easy. Therefore talk to the child about what should happen if he sometimes forgets the skills he is learning and behaves in the very way he is learning not to behave. The best way to prepare for these situations is to let the child tell his supporters how he wants them to remind him or help him in such a case.

13. When it is time to celebrate, the child is publicly awarded for having learned the skill or for having made substantial progress in learning it. At this stage you ask the child how other people have helped him to learn the skill and let the child tell you in what way each of his supporters has been helpful. Help the child to find a way to deliver his thanks also to those supporters who are not present at the celebration.

14. Encourage the child to teach the skill to another child who also needs to learn the skill.

15. Discuss with the child what skill he will learn next.


Published by Mary Meredith

Working in schools for over 20 years, I've been a Head of English, a SENCO and a deputy headteacher. I'm currently Head of Inclusion at Lincolnshire County Council. I am a sucker for the underdog. Always have been, always will be.

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