Kristi Kafka

Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Home Bullying Social Skills Resilience


Sleep is a highly underestimated variable related to health, behavior, and learning.  In fact, many students do not get enough sleep.  According to the Center for Disease Control:

·         3-5 year olds need 11-13 hours

·         5-12 year olds need 10-11 hours

·         Teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 hours

·         Lack of sleep can mimic symptoms of ADHD or worsen them and lead to behavior problems.

·         Teenagers who are sleep-deprived account for more than half of the “asleep-at-the wheel” accidents. 

The CDC recommends the following sleep habits:

·         Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.

·         Sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.

·         Make your bed comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music.

·         Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.

·         Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime.

·         Avoid large meals before bedtime.

If you observe attention, memory, or learning problems take a close look at the child's sleep habits before jumping to other conclusions.  If the child is getting adequate sleep and wakes seeming rested then other explanations might account for his/her difficulties.  Parents, teachers, administrators, school psychologists, counselors, and medical personnel can all play a role in the problem-solving process.

Taken from: and

Four Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior - Rudolf Dreikurs

1.    Ask yourself how you feel when the child engages in the problem behavior.  This information will help you to understand the child’s likely goal. 

2.  Refer to chart below and follow “Corrective Action”. 

Your Feelings

Child’s Likely Goal

Corrective Action

Irritated                        Child is acting cute or coy


Ignore (no eye contact or words)
Catch them being good

Reinforce appropriate behaviors (smile, praise, reward)



Give choices
Don’t engage - sidestep power struggle
Give child opportunity to feel powerful

Want to get even


Do not hurt back
Use logical consequences

Work to reestablish relationship/rapport



Arrange small successes
Avoid doing for child

Don't coax or show pity


Fascinating Brain Research - notes from the 2010 SDASP Conference speakers (Hudziak & Brendtro)

Protective Environmental Factors: (The more of these present in a child's life, the more success he/she enjoys)

Reduced family conflict is key to decreasing aggression in children.  (Refer to local service providers, parenting info...)

Sports involvement decreases high risk behavior & increases positive feelings for boys and girls

If a student has poor behavior, instead of kicking them off a team, consider counseling, daily check-ins, reading...

Sleep >8 hours on a regular basis decreases likelihood of aggression, anxiety, depression...

Reading has been found to decrease behavior problems.  (One study found after each Harry Potter book came out the number of accidents involving adolescents decreased.)

Mentoring others and contributing to a school or community builds students' sense of belonging.

Buy in at school (even if family or community problems persist) predicts positive outcomes.


Research strongly indicates recess improves student behavior. 

 - If a student has poor grades, consider assigning a tutor rather than taking away recess.

 - If a student has poor behavior, teach/model/practice/give feedback regarding the expected behavior.

My follow-up on the benefits of recess:

* Study by Dr. Barros, et. al:   “Recess should be part of the curriculum,” she said. “You don’t punish a kid by having them miss math class, so kids shouldn’t be punished by not getting recess.”  For full article, see:

* What Works Clearinghouse "does not consider these [Dr. Barros et. al.] results to be conclusive because the research groups were not equivalent initially. The reported differences in behavior between the groups might reflect differences in the students that are not related to the amount of recess they were offered."

* Despite possible problems with the study, we know exercise, fresh air, a change of environment, and time away from demanding tasks are good for us.  Bottom line, let's find other ways to teach students appropriate behavior than taking away much needed recess.


The brain is not "finished" until approximately 22 years old and skill "mastery" takes place at different stages.

 9 years old - fine motor and math skills

13 years old - judgment, emotion, and logic (Important to use active ignoring during this stage)

15 years old - ability to specialize in skills; special talents emerge

17 years old - abstract thought and ability to ponder complicated questions

21 years old - females: planning, organization, impulse control and brain maturation

23-24 years old - males: planning, organization, impulse control and brain maturation


Mindfulness - being in the moment

So many children "check out" of their daily experiences - school, interactions with peers, interactions with adults...  If we can improve our ability to be in the moment as educators, we can model and teach the benefits:

  1. improved concentration

  2. more meaningful connections with people around us

  3. self and other awareness and an improved ability to respond to needs

  4. improved productivity

  5. ability to realize our potential

Although it might seem "fluffy" and like a given, let's face it, many of us go through the motions and aren't fully present in the here-and-now either.  This isn't just a student problem.  By cultivating greater awareness of our senses, we will find that inner peace most of us seek.  We don't have to wait until 8:00 at night when most of the day's tasks are done.  By making a conscious effort to be "mindful" we can experience peace any time of day.

Cultivating mindfulness:

Examples of mindfulness practice include:
Becoming aware of the breath;
-Feeling the various physical sensations of an emotion;
-Noticing thoughts as they pass through the mind;
-Paying attention to all the sounds in the room;
-Noticing what happens in the body when there is stress;
-Watching the thoughts that arise when there is boredom;
-Feeling the stomach rise and fall with each breath

Taken from:

* Also see the Mental Health tab for more specific ideas on cultivating mindfulness.


Websites & Articles

Parent Resource -

Mindfulness Activities in the classroom -

Intervention ideas -

Timers motivate some students.  Computer timers (count up or down) -

Behavior charts motivate other students -

7 Reasons Children Need Recess -