The DeBug System

    The DeBug System is a system that can be helpful to families as well as classrooms. The purpose of the DeBug System, originally designed by Dawn Harris (1989), is to equip children with a series of steps that they can use to solve problems when others are “bugging” them. It helps define the teacher and parents’ role as one of assisting children after they have attempted to resolve the difficulty themselves.
    The five steps of the DeBug System are simple. The children are taught that if someone is bugging them, they should try the following:
                                                       Step 1: Ignore. If that doesn’t work…             


                             Step 2: Move away. If that doesn’t work…


    Step 3: Talk friendly. (Bug and a Wish –“It bugs me when you do that. I wish you would stop.”)

    If that doesn’t work…


    Step 4: Talk firmly. (“I need you to stop now. If you don’t, I will tell an adult.”)

    If that doesn’t work...
    Step 5: Get adult help. 
    The adult response, when a child complains about a conflict with a sibling or friend, is to ask the following:

    Have you tried the DeBug System?

    What step are you on?

    Come back if you get to step five.


    When a child has reached step five and needs an adult’s help, the adult follows these steps:

         Provide a place for both children to get together with you. Have them discuss:

                     What do you want to happen?

                     How can you make that happen?

                     Express confidence that they can work it out.

                     Have the children share their agreement with the parent.

                     If absolutely necessary, help the children talk it through.


    When the child comes to you after doing all four steps, the adult needs to stop and take the time to facilitate the resolution of the problem by following the above steps. A simple response of having them ignore (again) or move away (again) will only reinforce for the child that asking for help is not okay. In our society, we need a balance between empowering people to solve their problems but also asking for help when they need to. I hope that you find the DeBug System helpful to your family. You can even post the steps somewhere visible in your house.   You can also practice the song to help learn the DeBug system steps.      DeBug System Song