Friday, 24 May 2013
For the last two years I have worked in a school for primary-aged children that have been kicked out of mainstream education (known as a PRU or short-stay school). Upon hearing this, most people say 'that must be a really tough job,' and it undoubtedly is - in some ways. For example, when I am with these children, I can't display any personal 'touchy' or sensitive areas or I would fail miserably as these children invariably attempt to find any weak spots and goad every adult into behaving like the other adults in their lives. When they do this, I always remain calm and carry on delivering unconditional positive regard for the child - which might - I suspect - be beyond some people. The job requires me and those I work with to be very self aware and therefore this job has taught me lots! Aside from this dollop of self-awareness, I have learnt the better ways to manage extremely damaged children's behaviour. Recently I went to a training day that consolidated what I had intuitively concluded about behaviour management but consolidation with some extra tips is always beneficial. This is the journey the trainer took everyone present on...
1) In any situation where there are children and an adult, the adult is the most interesting 'toy' available because any adult is far more interactive than even the most complicated or advanced of children's toys. Therefore, children want to engage with us more than anything else in the room.
2) What a child wants in any situation therefore is our 'energy' - whether it is positive or negative.
This video illustrates this in a really entertaining way.
Toddler tantrum needing attention
3) What some adults get locked into and therefore repeat again and again, is putting all their energy into the unwanted behaviours. When an adult becomes agitated by a child's behaviour, they become far more engaged with the child - even though it is in a negative way. When a child is doing what we want them to do, they tend to get little of our energy. Therefore children learn that bad behaviour gets our energy.
4) Children actually love rules - which seems counter intuitive. Rules outline expectations and make things fair. Rules do not mean children will always follow them, but it clarifies what is desirable.
5) So a really effective behaviour management technique involves:
*setting clear rules like 'no swearing' (nothing vague like 'be respectful' as there is some ambiguity over what this actually means and it can mean quite different things to different people),
* 'giving' lots of energy to those getting it right
* being specific with praise to clarify the desired behaviour - not 'well done' but 'I love how you remained calm when...'
* withdrawing energy from those getting it wrong.
* The trainer also made it clear that you should give the child an indication of the fact they are not getting it right and that you are about to withdraw your energy. He suggested the term 'reset'.
6) Once the child is back on track, acknowledge this and re-give your energy.
Many teachers and parents are so used to locking horns with the bad behaviours, it take some time to re-adjust habits. It actually feels risky to start addressing all bad behaviours simply with the word 'reset' but it does work. I have extensive experience of it!
It always feels healthy to me when antiquated/mainstream views about something are challenged. When we are immersed or surrounded by something and it is all we have ever experienced, it takes a big step away from the idea to question it effectively and see a better alternative. This is one such example.