The Case of the Bright Pink Donut with Sparkly Sprinkles

(2-minute read)


I have a student who doesn’t think through her decisions. Instead, she makes impulsive choices which she later regrets. Sometimes, she’s not so lucky and her choice is irreversible. She cries and throws a fit demanding that I should fix things for her. Is there anything I can do to help stop her irrational behavior?


This is quite a common problem. I had this challenge with one of my own students two weeks ago. This is what happened.

It was Sarah’s 8th birthday! She was walking around the classroom handing out bright pink donuts with sparkly sprinkles to all her classmates. Malka, one of the girls in the class, was not hungry at the moment. She told Sarah that she doesn’t want any donuts. Sarah continued handing out donuts, and gave the extra pink donut to the principal.

Ten minutes later, Malka approached Sarah and asked for her donut. Sarah was incredulous and told her that all donuts were gone. Malka argued that one of them was hers! Sarah tried to explain that Malka didn’t want her donut earlier and so she gave it away. Malka got mad at Sarah and wouldn’t take “NO” for an answer. (When Sarah got visibly upset after being yelled at by Malka, I comforted her and told her that I saw her offering a donut to Malka and that she did nothing wrong.)

When Malka calmed down a few minutes later, I pulled her aside and drew the red and green picture below. I taught her about short-term thinking vs. long-term planning. We discussed that in the case of the pink donut, Malka needs to practice thinking whether she might want the donut later. If so, she should ask for it now!

Note: The clock in the top right corner denotes the passage of time. For example, after 30 minutes when the child changes her mind, if she did long-term planning, she still has the donut that she put aside earlier. If she did short-term thinking, after 30 minutes when she changes her mind and wants a donut, there is nothing left.

Do you want more ideas for using positive strategies to change behavior? Not sure how to teach the Reds and Greens? Watch the video clips using the links above. Each video is super clear, and gives you great ideas that you can implement immediately.

Have a thoughtful week!


Dr. Devora

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