Below are the most valuable lessons I have learned, and those that are critical for new teachers to develop, as well as for veterans to refine when working with children with challenging behavior.
- Discuss with students, in advance, expectations. How you will prompt appropriate behavior, and what are the consequences.
- Pause to take 3 deep breaths. It puts you in a space to RESPOND to behaviors, not REACT.
- Avoid blocking escape routes unless it is a last resort (i.e., the child is at a severe risk of putting themselves or others in danger if they leave) and if it is a last resort, work together as a team to develop strategies for allowing kids to escape, but remain safe while doing so. Maybe this escape, just means running across the hallway and into a “calm down room”. For some students, this means following a distance and using multiple adults to be able to watch the student unobtrusively.
- Try silence. When a student is in a heightened state, talking to them is going to fall on deaf ears. It also only serves to make increase the intensity of the situation. At this point, it is key to ensure the safety of other students and the student in crisis. Once the student is starting to de-escalate sometimes the following verbal strategies delivered in a calm and soft tone is helpful:
- Behavior momentum
- Give choices and then pause (give some wait time!); repeat the choices is necessary and then pause again.
- Ask the student what they need if appropriate for the individual student. What do you need to help calm down? How can I help you?
- The above strategies can often aid in helping get the child to a calm down or break spot where they can totally calm down. This is still not the time to discuss the behavior.
- Discussion comes when the student is ready to re-join. At this point, you can discuss what happened with the student.