What if you just have a generally normal kid who sometimes gets emotional (be it sad, withdrawn, angry, or frustrated). How can I help guide them in the right direction?
Your behavior is going to have the longest lasting impact on your child. How do you self soothe? Do you smoke a cigarette, call a friend, cry? Eat ice cream, drink coffee, get grouchy and act mean until you feel you need to apologize profusely- only after everyone else feels as miserable as you do. So what are some great things for YOU to be doing to regulate yourselves so your children learn and copy you?
Giving language to your processing is a great way to impart the knowledge to your children. I am feeling ____ . I what might help is ______. And then do what it takes to take care of yourself. Not every emotion needs to be neutralized. But extreme or violent anger and withdraw due to stress, sadness or anger need to be addressed and worked against with coping skills.
So how can we break these things down for our k-5th graders? Just like in counseling with adults, as a counselor, it is our job is to teach many different skills and help the client find what will benefit them in their current walk with their weakness and strengths the most.
Last episode of Tips from a Teacher, Katie briefly mentioned how redirecting her student to "chill ville" gives her time to regulate her own emotions. Let's jump back in as I draw Katie back to her statement and ask her to give us more information.
Emily: So that’s huge. What I hear you saying is that it is more effective when you have a chance to calm down and approach them calmly because if you were to approach them frustrated, the chances of them deescalating are low.
Katie: Yes, and My voice would not be calm.
Emily: Yeah. And so, a lot of what I teach parents is that ultimately the best way to teach your child how to self regulate is by modeling. So in what ways do you feel like your model for your students?
Katie: I think I definitely… I mean, I don’t say it… maybe I should start verbalizing what I’m doing, but sometimes I’ll step back and [exhale] and I think my fourth graders realize- I have one girl that will come up and hug me when I do it- but when that fourth grade is talking too much, I just step back and take a deep breath before I talk. And you know trying to keep my voice calm and low before I give corrections instead of trying to yell over them... Making my voice calmer and lower so they have to be quiet to listen to it. I don’t know how else I model! I guess in interactions with other people, definitely staying calm, talking with co-workers and stuff. Maybe giving that break is a model because I am waiting to talk to you until…
Emily: And so I think part of what I’m going to be writing about too, is the importance of acknowledging where you are modeling. Even if it is after the fact, once the classroom is settled, saying, “sometimes the class is… and that makes me feel disregulated and what helps me is to take an inhale and a nice long exhale and that slows my heart down and I don’t feel as rushed and it helps me so I want you guys to know that you could do that too.” You know?
Katie: **PREVIOUS YEAR’S EXPERIENCE (This anecdote was not from Katie's time with KIPP)** Yeah. Now that you say that it is bringing back memories of last year. I’m sure I told you about a student I had last year. So.. and she had several severe episodes where she was like a flip had switched would be really angry and act out and throw things and scream. And normally she was just so well behaved, it seemed very out of the ordinary and it was very unsafe when it would happen, and so I was… I was scared. And so after that happened – and of course in those moments when it was so severe I would speak to her in those [soft] tones of voice. The time where we were playing a math game and she got really upset and being disrespectful and she stomped her foot and stepped on my toe and I said, “you’re done that’s a dojo point”. And I walk over to my computer at the other end of the room to take the dojo point. Before I knew it she was behind my back, grabbed my arms behind my back and held them. She was shaking, saying, “don’t take the dojo point”. And immediately- and she had had an episode before so I was scared of that-I was speaking to her in a very calm voice. I was taking back what was her trigger, “Let go of my arms.. I’m not going to take the dojo point… take your arms off.. if you let my arms go I’m not going to take a dojo point you can walk over to the corner and take a break.” So slowly she backed up and I could grab the phone and call for help. There had been other times when she had a more severe episodes where she was screaming and kicking and pulling things off my desk. I would always have a talk with the class after she had been removed where we just all "brought it down" because everyone is “up here” and so we would talk about what can we do to stay safe when stuff like that is happening. Where other times she was she was throwing her chair, or kicking things or trying to pull my computer down off my desk. And so.. You know.. I needed that time too to speak calmly to my class, you know like, before jumping back into my lesson. Just saying, this is what we should do to stay safe in that situation. "It is good that you stayed in your seats. It is good to stay quiet so that Ms. Parker can call for help and be heard on the phone. When Ms. Parker asks you to sit down and stay back you need to do it immediately." You know? And that wasn’t necessarily calm down techniques for them, but still just like using it as a teaching moment of how to be safe when something like this is happening and I think that too was modeling for them how I was calm. Speaking to them calmly afterwords and lets take a break to talk about this.. I think that was modeling.
What great descriptions of explosions we have all witnessed if we are working in schools or counseling agencies. And wonderful responses from Katie of addressing her class and praising their ability to make safe choices in those circumstances. You may need to explore with someone how you are modeling your own emotional regulation to your children in order to explore if you might be modeling inappropriate skills or failing to model regulation at all. I'm always here to help. Join us for the next and final episode of Tips from a Teacher as we explore the ways that KIPP has created an atmosphere for safety and relaxation in their school!