The Day We Got “Sandwiched”
“May I speak with you?” his teacher said. I slowly walked into her room before picking my dude up from school, knowing that this wasn’t going to good. Most teachers don’t start with that question then follow up with how amazing your child is.
“He is so sweet and always wants to help. But today he just couldn’t keep his hands to himself and played too rough. He also threw a fit when I asked him to change seats. He wasn’t listening to the other teacher. Then ended his day helping a friend pack their back pack, which was really nice.”
As soon as I heard it, I knew what was happening. It was what I do when I talk to my staff – I was being feedback sandwiched.
For those that don’t know, the feedback sandwich is a feedback strategy in which you deliver a positive statement, a critical statement, then finish with another positive. For many, it’s considered a sh%t sandwich because it typically doesn’t work. All the good is taken away when the “but…” statement begins.
So we got sandwiched. I cringed because I knew what was happening and I felt even worse because it was MY kid. AND I’m a behavior analyst! Ugh. After learning more effective methods from experts in the field like Aubrey Daniels, I learned that the sandwich only helps the one delivering the sandwich and not necessarily the listener.
The focus of our conversation wasn’t so that I could criticize her feedback, but to provide meaningful change on the behaviors at hand. Here’s what I did that maybe you can do if you get sandwiched or need to deliver feedback:
- Get to the point: I said, “It sounds like he is struggling with appropriate attention seeking behavior from peers”. This is the “meat” of the sandwich. Ain’t nobody got time for the bread anyway. Who am I kidding…I always have time for bread. I digress.
- Provide an alternative behavior: Then I said, “Proactively, let’s teach him to give high fives and side hugs. If he get too rough, pull him aside to reset.” The alternative has to be specific.
- Give a consequence: I finished it with “If this happens again, he will lose privileges at home as well as preferred activities here. Is this something we both feel we can do?” If the target behavior occurred, there will be clear consequences.
We ended the short meeting happy and productive. I’m lucky to have a teacher that loves my kid too. I have to admit that being a behavior analyst and mom can be difficult sometimes when it’s YOUR kid acting up. But that’s life, isn’t it?
Give this a shot and let us know how it goes!
Daniels, Aubrey. Oops: 13 Management practices that waste time and money and what to do instead. Performance Management Publications: Atlanta, Georgia, 2009.