Behaviour is a Curriculum… it has to be taught!
What is Behaviour?
If children misbehave it is important to understand why, before teaching them how to behave.
Schools have to be safe places, for staff and children:
An anxious, angry or frightened mind cannot learn.
An anxious, angry or frightened mind cannot teach.
For that matter, an anxious, angry or frightened mind will find social and emotional leadership a challenge.
What happens to our brain when it gets anxious, angry or frightened?
The ‘Amygdala Hijack’
The frontal cortex of the brain (the red areas) is where thinking and reasoning takes place.
When the Amygdala has flipped its lid, you will not be able to reason with a child, or adult for that fact, therefore space and time is needed for them to recover, before you can fully discuss what has happened and problem solve the situation.
Rules and Routines
Rules and routines are really important in supporting children’s behavioural developments. Establish the rules and maintain the expectations at all times, make them the ‘norms’, as soon as rules are not upheld they are no longer the ‘norms’. We all know it is difficult when we are tired, pre-occupied etc., but it is important to maintain rules and routines as much as possible.
Routines are extremely important and good for children, it gives them stability. For example: bedtime routines; same bed time every night (this is important), followed by the order of doing things: tidying things away, going to the toilet, cleaning teeth, brushing hair, putting pyjamas on, getting into bed, reading a bedtime story etc. Routines are invaluable!
As adults we have had to learn how to self-regulate – when we are getting cross about something we need to calm down and for all of us, this will look different – removing ourselves from the situation by going for a drive or walk, by sitting quietly, drinking a cup of tea etc.
Children need to learn and understand how to self-regulate… it does not come naturally! They need to learn to identify how they feel and what it looks like when they are angry, cross or frightened and then they need to know how to regulate these feelings.
Teaching Behaviour starts at home and continues in school.
In order to build strong foundations for social, emotional and physical development, we must meet the basic physical needs and sense of personal security. This idea is central to the theories of the developmental psychologist, Maslow.
We understand that providing basic needs is harder for some families than others, so if you are struggling to provide food, water, shelter, clothing, warmth, sleep etc., please speak to a member of staff so we can try and help. There are plenty of places we can signpost families to. We are always happy to support our families and ultimately our community.
Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When each need is fulfilled we move onto the next one and so on. This is why Maslow’s model is often showed as a pyramid. He shows that “self-actualisation” will not happen if basic needs remain unfulfilled!
Dealing with a child’s behaviour…
Remember this simple acronym to help your child remain calm, feel understood/listened to and refocused on what they should be doing:
S – Safety cues – think face, tone of voice and body language. They should all match and be as relaxed as you possibly can.
E – Empathy – be curious and understanding. Responding empathically. Acknowledge their feelings and ask why they feel that way (child: I am cross as I didn’t want the activity to stop etc.).
A – Agreements – remind or re-set. Remind them what they need to do e.g. pack away or re-set the expectations e.g. next time you feel this way you need to talk to me etc.
This is all easier said than done, so don’t worry if it doesn’t go right… we can always re-set and try again next time!
Below is a simple script to focus your conversations. Emotion Coaching is a good tool to help parents and teachers to explore the behaviours and come up with solutions. Give it a go… what have you got to lose?
Emotion Coaching (how co-regulation works):
Step 1: Recognising, empathising, soothing to calm (‘I understand how you feel, you’re not alone’)
Step 2: Validating the feelings and labelling (‘This is what is happening, this is what you’re feeling’)
Step 3 (if needed): Setting limits on behaviour (‘We can’t always get what we want’)
Step 4: Problem-solving with the child/young person (‘We can sort this out’)
Please watch the following video about emotion coaching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KJa32r07xk
The Explosive Child…
Recommended book to read: “Revised and Updated The Explosive Child Sixth Edition” written by Ross W. Greene, Ph. D. and can be purchased online or from bookshops.
An explosive child is a child who responds to routine problems with extreme frustration: crying, screaming, swearing, kicking, hitting, biting, spitting, destroying property and worse.
A good strategy to try…
When children have behaviour issues, these can be referred to as unsolved problems as the behaviour is directly related to something, in the child’s eyes. Therefore, when then the child has had time to recover from their perceived stressor, this is when you can identify the problem and work together to come up with a solution.
In “The Explosive Child” book it talks about three options to help situations, Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.
Where possible, try to avoid Plan A’s, B’s and C’s are far more effective, as like previously stated – Behaviour has to be taught and so does how we approach things!
You only need plans, if a child is not meeting your expectations. It goes without saying that if your child is meeting your expectations, you do not need a plan.
Plan B works, but it does take practice and patience!
How does Plan B work? (Pages 83 to 113 of ‘The Explosive Child’ for further information.)
There are three steps to Plan B:
Your child may not say anything at all or they are unclear, therefore you may have to drill, not grill. The goal of drilling is to clarify, whereas grilling tends to be an act of intimidation. Drilling is to demonstrate to your child that you are attempting to understand their concern.
Drilling is reflective listening – simply saying back to the child whatever they said to you and then often followed by clarifying statements like “How so?” / “I don’t understand.” / “I’m confused.” / “Can you say more about that?” / “What do you mean?”
Drilling is about asking questions beginning with the words who, what, where or when.
Drilling is about finding out more information – why can you do it sometimes and not others?
Drilling is about finding out how they feel or what they were thinking amidst the unsolved problem.
Drilling is about breaking the unsolved problem down into component parts, as some unsolved problems have multiple components e.g. getting ready for bed has many components and it is helpful to pinpoint which component is causing them difficulty.
Drilling is summarising and asking for more.
Practice makes perfect and time!
For further information/support, please take a look at the following websites: