Tuesday, May 02, 2006

De-escalation

Somebody quick! Get FosterAbba and FosterEema a placement! They need real kids with real problems so they can stop worrying about the fictional ones(Supernanny...Or Holy Crap, Batman)! Sorry...I teased them in the comments too. I should not do that.

Seriously, thinking about what we can handle and what we can't is an important part of being care givers. I too am not prepared to deal with kids who are physically violent or destructive. Even if I were I would not do that to the bioboys.

I had to take a class a couple of years ago on restraint. Well, they said it was restraint, but mostly it was about how to avoid having the $h!t beat out of you. I learned how to escape various holds, avoid a punch, stuff like that. I also learned acceptable techniques for physical restraint, but I also learned that given my size and the size of the kids I care for, they won't work.

At the end of the class we were asked how, given what we know, we would handle the situations like the ones we had been learning about. "What is your plan?" they said.

I raised my hand. "My plan is to hide in the bathroom and call 911." "Well, what if another child is being attacked?" "I might throw my body between them, and tell everyone else to hide in the bathroom and call 911."

I know the teachers were disappointed. They wanted me to express confidence in my skills. I pointed out to them that I am a not-tall, slightly over-weight, not-terribly-fit woman. I take care of teenagers all of whom have been taller or heavier than I am. Physical violence is out of my league.

But you may have noticed that the title of this post does not seem to have anything to do with what I have written...yet.

What is not out of my league is de-escalating most kids before they get there. I have a highly sophisticated technique for de-escalating kids who look like they are about to get worked up to a real rage. Want to hear it?

I get a cup of water or tea, sit down, maintain the most relaxed body language I can, and listen.

That's it folks. The water or tea is important. That's what tells the kids I am not planning on going anywhere.

The first time I did it was when I was babysitting and a six year old started to rage. I just didn't know what to do. I fell into a chair, and sat there trying to figure out what to do. After about 10 seconds the child stopped and looked at me. Clearly I was not following the script. We stared at each other for a while and then I said, "Would you like me to read you a story?" The kid said yes and it was over.

I am NOT saying it always works. I am just saying that it is the only thing I have ever tried that did.

3 comments:

  1. Don't worry, we can handle the teasing...

    I suspect you are right -- once we have a kid with real problems, we won't be so focused on the "what if" stuff.

    We've decided (for now) to stop reading parenting books because we are starting to feel that a lot of the books we are reading describe the worst case scenarios. We've read several books on parenting hurt and manipulative children, and we walk away asking ourselves, "what the heck are we doing?"

    After watching that brat on TV last night, I seriously gave thought to putting the brakes on this whole process. I won't though, because at this point I'd never forgive myself for chickening out.

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  2. I like how you are being realistic about what your response might be.

    We never know until we are actually in that moment how we are going to handle things.

    A really terrific author to read is Torey Hayden. She doesn't take in foster children, but she does teach challenged children who are unable to make it in a regular classroom.

    Torey doesn't have one method that works. She doesn't limit herself that way. She has this amazing heart for children, and she tries various creative methods.

    Just reading Torey's books is a wonderful encouragement. She is in touch with her own humanity and fallibility, but what drives her is determination and this gift that she has developed for reaching children.

    My recommendation is that you read these two books:
    -"Just Another Kid"
    "Somebody Else's Kids"

    If they aren't available, any other title by Torey Hayden is okay, too.

    Lisa

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  3. Dang, the sit down and drink tea trick sounds fantastic. I can see why it works... probably with most anyone. I myself would be the most likely to say what you did "you thought I was upset? NOW I am upset, SEE THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!!"... I shall try to remember the tea trick. Brilliant.

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