Losing control whether a bottom up or top down behavior, feels terrible. It is a full body experience that doesn't feel good for any of us . There is so much more to do in this moment than just stop the behavior and hand out a consequence or isolation allocation. This signaling behavior is literally just the tip of the iceberg, and if not dealt with properly can leave long lasting damage, and change the decision-making process in a child.
Let me set up this very common, "disruption scenario" for you.
He's in a 4th grade classroom that is loud, busy, and over stimulating and is feeling agitated. Not quite knowing why his body feels the way it does, he is growing increasingly uncomfortable. Maybe its the fluorescent lights, the crowded room, messy desks, or the high volume of a typical 4th grade class. The possibilities are endless.
As his joking neighbor, pulls his paper from under his pencil, he snaps! ‘HEY” he shouts, he hits his friend, and he immediately turns bright red. He lashes out as a last resort to his mental load capacity at that moment, and boom he's in trouble! The "disruption scenario" has begun for him.
Emotions are high, adrenaline is pumping, pupils are dilated, and voices are escalated. A sympathetic nervous system in overdrive and your child is now cast out of a room and sent to an office of authority where he will be disciplined in accordance to federal and state guidelines of education.
Imagine, for just one moment all the feelings and emotions that are going through his tiny mind and body.
We have instantly dysregulated the autonomic nervous system and we are in full fight or flight. I will spare you the physiological effects in all their greatness, however, you should know that at this point the child is completely disconnected.
There is no grace period here, no time for breath. Here, the negative thoughts and self-talk are in full effect, the fear, the sadness and the feelings of worthlessness are growing each step closer to the authoritarian's office where he will receive confirmation that, "you are bad, what you felt is bad, how you reacted is bad". Not in every case, but in many I have talked with, including my own children this is the process.
There is a huge difference between disconnected discipline to stop behavior and connected accountability, and learning how to make better choices. We teach the latter.
Enter #generationkindful and the disruption scenario peace process.
We meet the child at a classroom door. We instantly offer connection, kindness and their choice of comfort. We sit for a minute, and calm down using our breath and other coping strategies. We talk through how we are not feeling very good for now, and how this will pass, because all feelings are transient. The power of, "for now" is applied and we begin our path to calm and regulated. And the power of "for now" is applicable at the tale end as well, becuase this outburst doesn't define him permenantly.
We offer a water, maybe a sensory toy if appropriate, as we walk in gentle conversation to the authoritarian's office reassuring the child's strengths and self worth. Sometimes, if I have my bag, I will even let my Bose speaker play relaxing music, as we wait to learn our accountability aid (correction). My goal here is to calm the body and mind, and prime the child to be in a state where they can actually receive and apply the discipline action effectively.
This tiny reset button (5 to 10 minute process) , in the world of a child could be the difference between learning emotion based freedom or emotion based fear.
Losing control, coming back to baseline, meeting your discipline action with accountability, and choosing better next time. This is the #generationkindful disruption scenario peace process. And, we stop the scaries and make it manageable and effective. All done with connected kindness and with the same outcome.
Big emotions apply to all of us. The way that we handle these emotions is a learning process. A process that must not be hindered by fear. Children do not learn when they are scared. #itsneuroscience
The Health Empowerment Series is a youth development program that teaches a skill-set, crucial to a successful and fulfilling life. This is for every age, at every stage. K-12.
❤ Emotional Intelligence and Regulation
❤ Coping Skills & Stress Management
❤ Emotional Health Mentoring
❤ Self Esteem and Resilience
❤ Mental Health Nutrition
❤ Mindfulness & Breath Work
If we are not protecting our mental health, we are not preventing negative mental health outcomes. Bridging the gap and breaking the stigma to promote entire generations of kind kids! #generationkindful #loveandacceptance
Cheryl Chouman, MPH