Sunday, October 13, 2013

Taking Charge of Your Inner Talking: Overcoming Pessimistic Thinking and Feelings When Things Get Tough with a Student

1.     Focus on a personal goal so that you can shift your attention from where you have been (past-oriented) to where you want to go (future-oriented).

2.      Create mini-goals (shorter and easier to do) branching from your bigger goal so that you move, incrementally and in more manageable terms, from where you feel you are presently to where you want to place yourself in the future. You can create a timeline such as: in two weeks, in four weeks, in three months, and finally, by the end of the academic period.

3.     Change your approach from problem-focused or what is wrong with the situation to solution-focused or what you can do to improve your interactions with the student. With a problem-focused approach, we are mostly labeling students (e.g. oppositional, messy-sloppy, or disruptive); a solution-focused approach, however, focuses us on processes (i.e. strategies, steps and procedures).

4.     Put the conflictive teacher-student interaction in the past using the past tense of verbs (e.g. argued, blamed, or overreacted). Always talk about strained interactions and disruptive behaviors as something happening in the past; even when it took place five minutes earlier.

5.     Use temporal language using words and phrases such as someday, soon, in the future, and sooner or later. For example, you can say, “Someday, when I no longer feel angry…” Or, In a near future, when all hurt feelings are healed…”

6.     Decontaminate your language from flawed presuppositions (i.e. those presuppositions that constantly remind children and teacher of how bad the situation is); use more presuppositions of positive change instead. In the first phrase above, we are making a powerful statement: angry feelings are temporary; they simply don’t last forever. In the second phrase, we presuppose that more positive and optimistic feelings are around the corner for everyone involved in the situation, including us.

7.     Redefine disruptive behaviors from “disruptive student” to “disruptive behavior.” In like vein, change from “this child is a behavior problem” to “this child has a behavior problem.” This important reframing of the situation helps us steer clear from blaming and labeling children.

8.     Use strategic language: You are not failing; the coping strategy that you are using seems to be inadequate to fix the social problem. This is as valid for students as it is for teachers; the use of strategic language keeps everybody focused on strategies and procedures, instead of blame. Strategies, techniques, and procedures we all need; blame and guilt, we do not. If the current coping strategy is not helping in improving the problem behavior, then just change it, and do not wait any longer to make adjustments to your current procedure.

9.     “Clean” your body behavior of any negative body language that you may be projecting (e.g. head down, slouched posture, sighing, clenched fists, etc).

10.  Defuse angry and hostile feelings by labeling anger in a less intense way such as “I feel annoyed,” “I feel irritated,” “I feel mortified,” or “I feel frustrated with this situation.” You can use a similar approach to defuse children’s anger; for example, saying, “You feel frustrated with this situation,” rather than constantly reminding children of their negative feelings and behaviors.

11. Change permanent language such as “always-never” (e.g. “I always get this wrong” or “I will never get this right”) to temporary language such as “sometimes” or “occasionally.” For example, saying instead, “Occasionally, I get this wrong” and “Sometimes, I overreact, and then is harder for me to listen empathically to what this child has to say.”

Related to this reading…
Watch Your Language! Ways of Talking and Interacting with Students that Crack the Behavior Code. To preview this book on Amazon, click here.

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