Cues are words that kids of all ages can say to themselves to correct a “bad habit” (i.e. problematic behavior). Important ingredients to a cue’s success are rhythm, repetition, rhyming, and humor.
As a behavior consultant to a large school district, I have been using cues for almost three years, with often dramatic results. I have taught the art of the cue in many workshops and have received amazing feedback (see Cue Success Stories). Here is one of my favorites:
An adolescent psychiatric facility was struggling with a young woman who had refused to shower for three months. The day after learning about cueing, two staff members stood in front of her room and chanted:
“Don’t be sour, take a shower! DON’T be sour, TAKE a shower!”
The young woman laughed and took a shower.
One year later, I returned to this facility and asked:
“Did that really happen?”
A staff member on the girl’s unit replied:
“Not only did it happen but we forgot to mention that SHE came up with the cue the night before…and she ALSO came up with “Don’t be a dope, use the soap!”
Whether I am working with kids or groups, I generally use bongo drums to establish a rhythm for the words we create. Songs – and more specifically their inherent rhythms – not only get into our heads but can remain forever. It’s a neurological phenomenon. Play an old rock-and-roll tape that you wore out years ago but haven’t listened to in ages, and I guarantee you’ll be humming the next song before it actually plays. Why? It’s already in your head. Similarly, cues get into our brains and can alter behavior patterns. Neurologists call this ability of our brains to remap as synaptic plasticity.
Two years ago, I interviewed a middle-school student who made significant progress curbing disrespectful behavior in a particular class by using a very funny cue. I asked him if he thought about the cue prior to entering this class. Without hesitation he responded, “No.” He then pointed to his head and explained, “It’s already in there.” This phenomenon has been described by countless other kids I have worked with.
Many people ask whether cues can be used with adolescents – particularly the “street-savvy” kind. The answer is yes….if you sell them properly. Bottom line: If a person has a brain, it can be re-wired. I recently met with a number of adolescents at a locked facility in the mid-west. These wonderful young men were from inner-city environments and had learned to survive on the streets. They took to the cues. Actually, they renamed them as one-line raps. (I like that!) A week after visiting with these folks, I got an email from one of the staff members, informing me that many of the youth were walking around humming: “If you lose hope, don’t do dope!”
The more fun you have with cues – or one-line raps – the better. I heard a woman deliver a keynote address many years ago. She stated that Stanford did a study that revealed students learn 700% more in a classroom when humor is an active part of the teaching. To be honest, I don’t know whether or not she was serious, but that hasn’t stopped me from repeating the study.
Here’s another favorite cue:
“The harder I try, the higher I fly! Be the Eagle!”
On the following pages are numerous cues that have been used to help kids –and adults – eliminate their bad habits. Feel free to use them, and if they are successful please Contact Us describing your technique and letting me know if I can post your work under my Cue Success Stories (with names and locations changed). Conversely, if you are struggling with a kid’s “bad habit” and can’t find the right cue, e-mail me your story and I’ll try to help. Allow 1-2 weeks for cue delivery.
It is my intention to periodically update this section. I am also in the early stages of producing a CD with all of the popular cues set to rhythm and music. The No Bad Kid Band is taking shape and should be ready to Boogey and record by the winter of 2005.
Thank you for your interest in this fascinating and effective cognitive-behavioral approach. Please feel free to send me any cues that have helped and could benefit others.