A Guide to Shadowing

Shadowing is a great tool for adjusting behavior problems. It takes a LOT of work, but if done properly the results are worth it. We most commonly use this tool when we have a child who is biting, or otherwise trying to hurt their classmates. Here’s our guide on what shadowing is, and how to use it to adjust behaviors.

Child's Shadow

What is shadowing?

Shadowing is exactly what it sounds like- an adult being a child’s shadow. An adult (preferably the same adult) is to follow the child everywhere they go, without adjusting their play. The adult should be no more than an arm’s reach, and giving them constant direct supervision. The idea is to be close enough to stop the behavior before it is done. If an adult isn’t close enough to separate the child immediately if they attempt to bite, then they are too far away. It is literally being that child’s shadow.

It’s very important that the child doesn’t feel any special attention. Ideally they don’t even realize they are being shadowed. It’s also important that the other children aren’t aware of the shadowing. The child with the behavior problem should not feel special or punished by this. They can still play freely, and interact with their friends. It’s simply that an adult is close enough to separate them if and when it needs to be done.

When do we use shadowing?

Anytime we have a behavior that can hurt that child or another, we look to shadowing. Typically an issue like biting requires shadowing after 2 incidents. One instance of hitting can be a fluke, but 2 instances close together can start a pattern. The sooner we start shadowing and eliminating this behavior more quickly. We shadow children until they are 2 weeks incident free. Typically if we see 2 weeks without a behavior incident, the child has moved through the phase and won’t try again.

How does shadowing work?

Shadowing is an incredibly useful technique in keeping the class safe while we adjust behavior. The idea is that typically a behavior that requires shadowing is something the children will outgrow relatively quickly. Shadowing keeps all of the other friends in class safe, while we try using a combo of techniques with the friend with the behavior problem. Often times children who are less verbal will find aggression to be an effective language. While we are waiting for their vocabulary to grow, or to teach them new strategies, we use shadowing to protect the class. And sometimes simply breaking the cycle will be enough for the child to find other strategies that are more appropriate.