We can wait

Children and young people who have experienced repeated failure in their learning and in their interactions with other people suffer with low self-esteem. They have a poor self-image and tend to be very fragile. The slightest thing can upset them and cause an extreme emotional reaction. So dealing with them can be very tricky. It’s easy to “get it wrong”.

Rushing in, over-communicating and making demands usually lead to challenging behaviours becoming even more extreme. The young person shuts down their communication and may become defiant and aggressive. You know the kind of things I’m talking about – swearing, shouting, making threats, refusing to cooperate, “re-arranging” furniture…

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about appropriate responses to this kind of behaviour. I’ve found that, as long as there’s no immediate threat to others or risk to the young person, a “slow” response is usually the best option for me. Talking calmly and in a low voice, minimising what I say and making it clear that I can wait for the young person to make a good choice. The message is: “Whenever you’re ready…”

Open up the space, take off the pressure, show that you will stay with the young person and things will usually get better.

What works well for you in these situations?


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