I wanted to share a story of what I consider to be an amazing ability of maintaining composure…
I was a substitute in a special needs Pre-K class. They have “quiet time” when we hope the children will sleep. A few of them like to use this time to act up, until their behavior becomes so tiresome, to them and the adults, that they (the children) fall asleep.
While I sat with one student, I observed another student hit, pinch, kick, give raspberries (you know, stick their tongue out and “Phhttt” while saliva comes out around the tongue), and pull the hair of the adult sitting with them. I have to admit, I think I’d have walked away after the hair pulling and said someone else needed to come sit with this child.
None of this was done in anger, it was all done seeking negative attention and trying to get a reaction from the adult. Of course, in this day and age, the only recourse is putting the child in “time-out” which would be just as difficult as trying to get them to stay on their mat and rest.
Here is the amazing part… my co-worker did not react. They did not tell the child to quit, except when their hair was pulled. They didn’t even have any facial expressions. The adult basically ignored the child until the behavior stopped. When the child saw they were not getting the reaction they were looking for, the child simply gave up, lay down, and went to sleep.
The adult ignored the negative behavior and it stopped. I expressed my amazement at the ability of my co-worker to maintain their composure throughout the entire incident. Of course, if either the child or the adult would have been in any danger of being harmed, the negative behavior would have been put to a stop, but since it was basically taunting, the adult let it play out to its natural ending.
When your patience is being tested by a child, how do you react? Do you hit, scream, or threaten them? Does that stop the behavior? Perhaps temporarily, or perhaps not at all.
As long as no one is in danger of being harmed, often times ignoring the negative behavior while maintaining your composure can let the child realize that their action isn’t getting the desired reaction, and they will stop. *This doesn’t work for all children. Sometimes a child will escalate in their negative behavior to a point of being dangerous, in which case you must put a stop to it.*
If you have not yet tried ignoring the negative and praising the positive (we’ll talk about that next week), it might be worth a try. Remember, the key here is “maintaining composure.”
*Pam Horton Is a Board Certified Advanced Christian Life Coach and Parenting Coach.