Sunday, August 20, 2006

Crisis Management -- The topic itself

Before I went to the class I had imagined that I would learn a bunch of stuff and that then I would come back and share. I did not really learn much that was new, and although I did re-organize it. It was a seven hour training, but here are some highlights.

1. Take care of yourself.
You need to learn how to manage your own stress if you are going to help a child de-escalate.

2. Behavior is always meaningful. Kids are expressing some need and responding to it appropriately will involve understanding (figuring out) what need they are expressing.

3. Children come from different "cultures." It is possible, even likely, that what is shocking to you is just normal for them. When a kid tells you to F*** Off, that might for them carry all the malice and emotional intensity as my saying, "Please leave me alone!!" This does not mean that you need to allow them to say or do things that are against your rules, but remember it when you are deciding how to react. (In other words, it might be that the best reaction is pretty much the same one as you would give if they left their coat on the floor. It is to be corrected or responded to, but not taken as a personal attack.)

4. Behavior management is not really behavior management. In other words, all the stuff you learn in this and other classes is not really about controlling kids as it is about giving them tools and opportunities to control themselves.

Now...for the stuff itself:
1. Prevention
Some basic good, non-confrontational parenting techniques can help prevent a lot of escalation and crises. Some of the parents at the class needed a separate training in this area, but for most of us it was time we should have been spending on other stuff. If you want to learn more about this I recommend that you check out and read Faber and Mazlish. Start with Talking to Kids So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk if you like a "how to" manual style book or with Liberated Parents, Liberated Children if you like something more philosophical. I love their books. One of my favorite things about them is that they completely get that parents get angry, have bad days, and make mistakes. They don't expect that that will stop. They instead talk about how to deal with them.

2. Dealing with escalating kids
Okay, so you are this great parent. You allow your kids to deal natural and logical consequences without having an "I told you so" attitude. You give reasonable choices instead of commands. But it is not working. The child right now, today is ANGRY and could escalate.

This is not a moment to impose consequences, give forced choices, argue or threaten. DURING THIS MOMENT, all you do is:

Stay calm. Breathe deep. Maintain a relaxed body posture.

Give short verbal responses that affirm their emotions, and maybe deflect them from where they are going:

"I can hear how angry you are!"

"I am not doing this stupid chore and you can't make me."
"No one can control you but you."

"X is a a$$. He got into my stuff and ruined it. I hate him and if he does it again I am going to punch him in the face."
"I can see how important it is to you that your privacy is respected."

Of course all of this can be replaced by quiet attentive nodding with the occassional "I understand."

Here is the important thing: when the kid is furious, it is not the right time to lecture about appropriate language, remind them of the consequences of violence, or even negotiate a different chore routine. In this moment, the only thing to do is be the water...deflect...remain not fight back...

Also though you do not need to allow yourself to be abused. You cannot force someone to control themselves, but you can remove yourself. If the kid is beginning to escalate to a dangerous place, then backing away slowly, getting out, and calling 911 may be the best idea. If the child is subjecting you to verbal abuse it is okay to say that you are going to leave the room and will talk to them when they are feeling more calm.

Also important: let them walk away. If they call you a foul name, go to their room, and slam the door, don't follow them. Give them a good long chance to calm down and then deal with it later.

3. "Postvention"
When the crisis is over be sure to take care of everyone, including yourself. Everyone will feel exhausted. Talk to the other children in the house. Let everyone have a break.

4. Parenting Again...
Go back to the basic parenting stuff. Try to figure out what need the child is expressing and how to address it in a healthy way. If the child during the crisis broke a rule for which you have a consequence, impose the consequence as matter-of-factly as possible. Remember that the need could be to have more control in her life, or express feelings that are pent up. It might not have much or anything to do with the apparent trigger of the crisis.

And finally:
None of this is a cure for RAD or ODD or any other behavior disorder. It may be a way that will allow you to cope, and it may help with the behavior, but it will not fix them. that is my version of what I spent 7 hours on yesterday. Hope it helps someone...


  1. I really like this, especially how to deal with escalating children. I am not too good at that.

  2. whoops..that was me.


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