IEP – Individual Encouragement Plan

I attended a conference many years ago given by Dr. Al Milliren titled “What to Do When They Make Your Hair Hurt – A Brain-Friendly Discipline Model for Responding to (Mis)behavior.”

It was excellent. At the time I was speaking regularly at In-Services and I was looking for ways to inspire educators to give Adler a “try in the classroom”.

So much of what Dr. Milliren presented that day was meaningful and relevant to anyone working with students, but one idea he offered was of particular interest to me.

When he threw up the slide Developing an “IEP” – “Individualized Encouragement Plan” I was immediately intrigued. This idea, more than other I heard that day stood out as something I believed any teacher, or for that matter any person working with kids could embrace and implement with ease and confidence.

A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. Discouraged children act out and they act out in an attempt to find their place within the group in useless ways. These children do not require correction they require encouragement. And the idea that every child, whether they are misbehaving or not, deserves a personal Individualized Encouragement Plan suggested that we as the adults in their lives, could inspire and influence in inspiring and powerful ways.

Lets play the “Imagine This” game:

  • Imagine how your view of a child might change if you developed and “IEP” that highlighted the child’s strengths, assets, and unique talents and not their useless and challenging behaviors.
  • Imagine how different your relationship would be with this child if your focus and energy where towards implementing your IEP instead of on correcting the child during your time together.
  • Imagine how much more open and receptive he would be to your assistance and guidance as he grew and developed.
  • Imagine how you might communicate in more open, honest, reflective and respectful ways if you were using the IEP to guide the conversation.
  • Imagine how she might begin to experience herself as you brought more and more attention to her strengths, assets and unique talents.
  • Imagine how much more open minded, flexible, responsive and courageous he might be after days, weeks and months of your constant and consistent application of your specially designed Individualized Encouragement Plan.
  • Imagine a world, filled with encouraged boys and girls who felt empowered to participate in life in meaningful, engaged, and useful ways, all because you took the time to replace the “IEP”.

Thanks Dr. Milliren. This refreshing idea couldn’t come at a better time.

Al Milliren, Ed.D., N.C.C., B.C.P.C., is Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling and Team Leader for the School Counseling program at Governors State University in University Park, IL. He also serves as adjunct faculty for the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, is Board Certified in Professional Counseling, and holds the Diplomate in the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology. Al has been a junior high school counselor and teacher, an elementary school counselor, and a Professor of Counseling at Illinois State University and at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He is a national and international workshop presenter and has authored or co-authored several books and numerous articles on Adlerian Psychology and related topics. (A good friend to, and member of, NECAP, Al has also written or co-written prefaces to books by Bob Herrmann-Keeling, web master of this site.)