De-escalating students during an outburst can be physically and mentally draining. But what if there was a way of making it easier on you?
In the first of our "quick fire strategies" episodes, I share one mind-trick that makes de-escalation less stressful - whether you're dealing with a pupil outburst, or another adult that has lost control of their emotions.
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Show notes / transcription
Simon Currigan 0:00
Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan. And welcome to school behaviour secrets. I'm going to do something new over the next few episodes while schools in England are off for the summer holidays. And it's a slightly different format that I'm going to call a quick fire strategy episode. The idea is I'm going to give you one idea or strategy to think about and use with your new class all condensed into an easy to listen to five to 10 minute episode. And hey, if you're in another part of the world to me, that has a different school calendar say then these tips are going to be perfect for using the students that you're already teaching. Today's quick fire strategy episode is something I'm shamelessly stealing from a book I read a few weeks ago. It's all about how we think about the other person in a confrontation or outburst in a way that helps us feel less stressed and more empathetic and less unsettled afterwards. So it's a really positive strategy we can use in school to protect our own well being when we're put under pressure, the book is Rangan Chatterjee is happy mind happy life. And it is generally just an excellent book full of practical strategies for living a happier, more fulfilled life. So I completely recommend you buy it and read it, especially if you're a teacher experiencing lots of stress listening to this, I'll put a link to it in the episode description. And Rangan, an author has a very popular podcast too all about living a healthy life and having a healthy mindset there. I also recommend called Feel better Live more. So I'll also link to that in the show description. And I have I want to say up front, no affiliation with Ron going in anyway. I just love his books and resources. So let's imagine we have a situation where a parent has come into school, and they're upset about an incident with their child. Let's say it's because you gave them a detention than they're here to fight for their child's rights. And they're immediately shouting at us in the corridor in front of some of the students. For many of us, that would put us on the backfoot. And we'd probably feel slightly surprised to start with then our adrenaline would start to surge. And we're most likely to do one of two things we might feel threatened and back off and allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by this tirade to get steamrollered and never make our point, we might start to fight back, which provokes more confrontation with the parent and extends the length of the confrontation whether that confrontation puts you in a defensive mode or attacking mode, you're not emotionally in a good place to manage this situation. In this case, like one of our students, the parent isn't in control of their emotions, and we're going to have to co regulate them, get them into a calmer state. Otherwise, we aren't going to be able to guide this outburst towards a successful outcome and resolve the issue.
When this happens. I think it's important to remember one of the golden rules of de escalation, which is don't take it personally, especially when they mean it personally, this person for whatever reason, has lost control of their emotions, they're saying things they probably don't mean. And that's not your fault. Don't let their words affect how you feel about yourself as a professional, as a teacher, or as a human being. Often the parent or a students, if it's one of the children you're working with are lashing out against any adult that happens to be there. And today. That's you. Secondly, and this is where the strategy from Rangan's book comes in, is make that person a hero. All right, so I know when you heard that right, you probably just dropped your bacon sandwich. The successful de escalation involves us having empathy for the other person and understanding their point of view. Now that's different from agreeing with what they're saying or their actions or the way they're expressing those opinions or emotions. But we have to start from their physical, mental and emotional state and work from there. And what Ronger means by making the other person A hero is this. If you would have that person's life experiences up to this date had experienced this pair In life growing up as a child, their schooling their work life, if you dated the partners they dated, experienced the same relationships they'd have. Right now, you'd be reacting to this situation in exactly the same way, as they are doing now. Just think about that for a moment, we are all the product of our experiences and our genes. If we spent a lifetime walking in their footsteps, even if you think you wouldn't, and your child just got a detention that you feel is unjust, you'd be completely offloading your child's teacher the way they are doing to you right now. And this person is attempting to handle this injustice with all of the social and emotional skills, their life experience has handed to them. In their mind, they are the hero protecting their child and you are in the wrong or the school is in the wrong and you're just getting caught in the crossfire. Or maybe they don't like the way you teach, probably without any basis for that feeling because they've never worked in a school or had any teacher training. But everyone's been to school, right? So everyone thinks they know how to teach. And by the way, it's a good thing. We
don't take that approach to other areas of our life. I mean, I've been on holidays abroad, I've sat in an aeroplane, but I don't feel that in any way qualifies me to go fly the plane. And I've also had operations in hospital, but it doesn't qualify me to give surgery to other people. Anyway, I digress. So we have this person in front of us who's probably dysregulated. And if we take the mindset of how can I make this person a hero? How can I really understand the problem from their point of view with their life experiences, it does three things for us. Firstly, it helps us empathise and get information we can use to deescalate the situation, this confrontation that's going to keep it shorter, that's good for us. Secondly, most often, it helps us realise that this situation isn't about us personally, that the person in front of us is doing their best to cope with the situation with the resources that they have that have been given to them. And for the sake of our own mental health. It depersonalised is the problem, it stops us casting the other adult as a bad person. Now interestingly, there's something called the fundamental attribution error, which I don't have time to go into detail about. Now, that's a whole other podcast episode. But it basically means that when we see another person acting in a way that we perceive his negative, we label them very, very quickly as a bad person. So a parent shout at us in school, or we see a person driving badly cutting across the road in front of us when we have priority. We walk away from those situations, labelling them as a bad person or an idiot, we see those one off events as representing something about that person's deeper character when we behave badly. It's a whole different ballgame. We judge ourselves with much greater tolerance and compassion. Because when we shout at someone, it's because we've had a bad and stressful day, or when we cut across traffic is because the traffic was awful. And we were in a rush to pick up the kids from daycare before it closed. Our assumption is I'm a good person. And these actions don't speak about who I truly am. There are exceptions to the rule. And we don't extend this courtesy to other people. So making the other person A hero is actually really important for you. When you go home at the end of the day, and you're sat there and the thoughts of the day begin to stew in your mind, it keeps the actions of the other person in perspective, when we stereotype the other person as bad. We feel like we are personally being attacked. When we cast the other person as a hero doing the best with the skills they have in a situation in which they're out of their depth. It takes out some of the emotional sting. We're casting the other adult as a complex human being which depersonalised is the conflict and puts us in the emotional driving seat. And the example I've given here is of a parent coming into school and shouting, but we can apply this technique of making the other person a hero to students as well, when a pupil start swearing and walking out of class, again, day after day. Yes, that's an incredibly stressful situation to deal with as a teacher or a teaching assistant. And in your head, ask yourself when this situation comes up, right? How can I make this student a hero, I mean, you're not going to do this out loud to the rest of the class and talk about how you admire them for crawling under the desks and using profanity. Remind yourself if you had this child's lived experience, and you were put in a situation where you didn't have the skills to cope, you'd be acting in exactly the same way and it will make your response more empathetic. You'll feel more empowered and in control, and you'll carry away far less emotional baggage home with you at the end of the day. And that's everything I've got for you in this quick fire strategy episode. If you liked today's episode, don't forget to share it with three friends who would find it useful For simply open up your podcast app, hit the share button and your app will help you send a direct link to the episode through Facebook, email, WhatsApp, or whatever messaging platform you use. It's as easy as sharing an article from the web to a friend in Facebook. And don't forget, if you're working with kids with challenging behaviour and you're not sure why they're acting that way, we've got a download that can help. It's called the Sen handbook and it can help you link behaviours you've seen in the classroom with possible causes like autism and ADHD. The idea here isn't for teachers to make a diagnosis we're definitely not qualified to do that. But if we can link classroom behaviours to possible causes quickly, that means we can get the right help and get early intervention strategies in place completely free to download go to our website beaconschoolsupport.co.uk. UK click on the free resources tab near the top and you will see it I will also put a link in the episode description. I hope you found today's episode useful. Have a brilliant week and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviours
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)