“Kids do well if they can.”Dr. Greene
You will not be the only staff member interacting with the student; therefore, cultivating empathy and understanding for a student with behavioral outbursts is integral in ensuring staff understand what is truly at the root of the problem – the child has not intuitively developed positive coping skills.
I cannot recommend the work of Dr. Greene enough for raising awareness for students that can be cast off as “attention-seeking” or “manipulative.” Instead, Dr. Greene introduces the idea of lagging skills, which are specific social emotional and behavioral skills students such as being flexible and managing frustration that need to be explicitly taught. He says the challenging behaviors occur “when the demands being placed on a kid exceed his capacity to respond adaptively (Greene, 2014, p.12).” According to Dr. Greene, delayed social emotional development could be akin to a student being behind in reading or math – it is an instructional issue rather than a character issue. For example, we do not say that students, who are behind in reading and writing, do not want to learn – we simply provide the student with extra instruction. He argues that the same standard should be held to students who are behind in their social emotional development.
|Looking at children through this lens results in a paradigm shift for teachers to: |
-Understand socially acceptable behavior is not always intuitive and that certain students need to be explicitly taught these skills.
-Not take maladaptive behaviors personally – these behaviors reflect a skills deficit that needs to be proactively addressed.
-Have more empathy for a student stuck in an unproductive and isolating behavior loop that he or she does not YET have the skills to escape.
These philosophies are part of Dr. Greene’s model of Collaborative and Proactive Solutions, which focuses on finding and then teaching specific skills that will help with the student’s overall social emotional development. Dr. Greene offers many classes, which I hope to take one day!
If you have a specific child in mind, I recommend having parents, teachers, and any other stakeholders fill out Dr. Greene’s Assessment of Lagging Skills, which can drive discussion at IEP meetings, inform specific IEP goals, and social skills instruction. This conversation goes one step further than what is the function of the behavior or what the child is trying to communicate – this conversation involves what skills a student needs to be taught to implement replacement behaviors.
Self Determination Theory
The psychological needs outlined in Self Determination Theory of competence, autonomy, and relatedness with others apply to all students — as well as all adults (Niemec & Ryan, 2009). However, it is important to note that many of our students with behavior struggles receive an authoritarian behavior management style or the “curriculum of control.” An increase in external control can backfire and result in more power struggles and an increase in negative feedback leaving the student feeling isolated and helpless. Instead, fostering opportunities for students to feel successful, have ownership and choice in their learning and have positive connections with others will help build the student´s self esteem and make them feel part of the classroom community. Lastly, this theory provides much needed flexibility for both the educator and the student so the focus is on ownership of learning and progress instead of forcing the student fit into a one size fits all box.
Think of a particular student. How can you apply Self Determination Theory to this student?
- Competence – How can the student feel successful academically and socially in the classroom?
- Autonomy – How can the student have more ownership of the learning process? What choices can be embedded within the student´s day?
- Relatedness – How can you help the student have positive peer interactions?
The Power of Rhetoric
Addressing the Impact of Rhetoric
In The Explosive Child, Dr. Greene discusses how members of the school community, parents, and sometimes even other students may label students with behavioral challenges as “manipulative, attention-seeking, unmotivated, stubborn, willful, intransigent, bratty, spoiled, controlling, resistant, out of control and defiant (Greene, 2004, p. 9).” Rhetoric shapes perceptions of realities, and passive, negative rhetoric about students can affect students’ educational outcomes (Pollock, p. 103). In School Talk, Pollock argues that every child students’ “academic fates are built through real-time interactions, as educators react to students, students to educators, and both to families, other students, and experiences outside of schools. Through these interactions, children become youth who are attached to schools and successful in schools, or youth who are not (Pollock, p. 103).” Therefore, students’ experiences and success in schools can be shaped by rhetoric from all stakeholders in the educational process. The culmination of these “interactions” can either tether or eject students from the school community. Understanding that rhetoric cannot be viewed in isolation of one stakeholder group begs the question for how schools can educate all parties can use more empathetic language to ensure students with behavioral challenges stay “attached to schools.”
Greene, Ross (2014). Lost at School: Why our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them. New York, New York: Scribner.
Greene, Ross (2014). The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children. New York, New York: Harper Collins.
Niemiec, C. and Ryan, R (2009). Autonomy, competence and relatedness in the classroom. Theory and Research in Education. University of Rochester: New York.
Pollock, M. (2017). Schooltalk: Rethinking What We Say About–And To–Students Every Day. New York, NY: The New Press.