A healthy nurturing relationship is so important for working with your child at home on regulating their emotions. Occasionally I will meet a child who turns their anger and explosiveness inwards. This can look like a child that attempts to control their environment or seek out attention in more subtle ways. They may refuse to speak, hold in their bowels or have panic attacks. This is where is it important to come back to the nurturing skills and pay careful attention to your implementation of a soothing, calm voice, gentle facial expressions, open body language and time to enjoy one another. [Preventing and intervening with dysregulation is much easier when there is an established status quo and a trusting relationship between the adult and the child. Often the adult has no say in this relationship with children who are frequently dysregulated.] Join us now on the third episode of Tips from a Teacher as we explore Katie’s use of nurture to help deescalate behavior in the classroom.
Emily: And the difference- we have kind of touched on it- that sometimes your kid is going to self regulate and sometimes you need to intervene. And that is kind of a gut feeling of what is happening. So what might be a way that you would intervene?
Katie: So at that point, a lot of times it is just based on whatever is going on in my classroom at that time and that I have to wait for a natural pause in the lesson before I can come over to you. A lot of times my first move is “go get some water” or “go wash your face” because of just knowing how I feel when I’ve been crying, I just want to wash my face or I’m thirsty. I guess a lot of times this conversation is coming from misbehavior. A lot of times the reason the children are in chillville is because I sent them there. “You need to take a break because you are doing x,y,z.” So, We will talk about why they had the outburst, but we will talk about a better thing that they could’ve done. I always try to end with reassurance, like “If you raise your hand and tell me that so-and-so is bothering you than they will get in trouble because that is not okay to happen.” So I think that is important, at least on my end, of making sure they feel cared for. So they know they have an advocate if they raise their hand we can solve it in a more productive way.
Emily: So that is kind of like what is said during the conversation. So if you were to set the stage of like what does your body language look like? What’s your tone of voice? Where are you versus them? What do you find works best to sort of help them deescalate?
Katie: I bend down to them; I get close. I don’t make them make eye contact with me. I know a lot of teachers say, “look at me”, but I don’t. I know sometimes it helps to just sit beside each other and not look in the eyes, but I do get close. I lower my voice; it is very conversational. Sometimes if there is a disciplinary issue I am talking…in a serious tone of voice, but most of the time it is soothing because I want them to open up and tell the truth-to be honest about what they should’ve done. So I get down on their level and I’m close to them.
Emily: That’s good. And that’s from what I’m learning, one of the main things of de-escalation, whether someone is having a panic attack or if they are angry and acting out is tone of voice, facial expression, being very careful that you aren’t tense and your eye brows aren’t furrowed and that you are open and melting your face and that encourages them.
Katie: Well and I think sometimes it helps me to have given them that break because I’ve had a break. I’m not angry anymore because I’m… I’m kind of over it.
Here at the end, Katie starts to acknowledge how taking care of herself and being mindful about her own state of arousal and dysregulation is so important to being a useful partner in helping her students regulate their emotions. More on modeling in the next episode of Tips from a Teacher!