Bullying and Resiliency.. The “Band-Aid” That Can Heal The Wound

December 12, 2017

As we reflect on “childhood”, experiences like playing with friends, getting 100% on a spelling test, and walking across the stage for high school graduation illustrate shared memories that have become synonymous with what it means to be a kid.  Unfortunately, too many people share the experience of being bullied as a child, but we don’t have to accept that because of its frequency, it must be considered merely a part of "growing up".

 

Bullying is the type of experience that resonates for years after its initial occurrence. The words and deeds continue to cause both physical and emotional pain long after any physical marks may have healed.  Often children are advised to “ignore” or “walk away” from the perpetrator, but that passive approach can leave the victim with feelings of helplessness; rather than the strength of empowerment.  How can children build a sense of internal strength that can support them during experiences of challenge?

 

Resiliency can be the “internal strength” needed to overcome stress and anxiety.  By definition, resiliency is defined as the ability to recover readily from adversity.  Teaching children “how” to develop that resiliency could be the tool that could make all of the difference.  Here are some strategies that can foster a sense of resilency:

  1. Help kids to feel “connected” to both classmates and adults in their daily lives, so they have known resources across environments, when help may needed.

  2. Benefit from the structure of a daily routine to ensure a sense of predictability, which helps kids to feel "safe" in their lives.

  3. As a preventive resource against becoming overwhelmed, help kids to enjoy a “break” from the worries of day-to-day life.

  4. Teach self-care skills as a means for kids to learn how they can protect themselves against the challenges of their daily experiences.

  5. Build a positive self image, as a great tool against actions of bullying.

 

We can stop bullying from becoming a shared experience by infusing resiliency into our kids’ internal skill sets.

Universal Design for Learning Welcomes "Everyone" Into The Classroom

September 25, 2017

The modern classroom is an incredibly diverse and dynamic place.  Traditional lesson design focuses on creating instructional presentations to a group of students, in one static way for everyone involved in the lesson.  The students have to shift and adjust to fit into the expectations of the presented lessons.  Asking the students to adjust their learning to fit the lesson is counterintuitive to the learning process.  Effective teachers put the students’ needs first and design their lessons to meet those needs.  This is the theory behind Universal Design for Learning or UDL.  In a field of acronyms, UDL is an opportunity for ALL student needs to be addressed.

 

UDL uses a flexible, step-by-step process, with defined learning objectives, that consider learner variability and is designed to address it within the context of classroom instruction.  Universal Design for Learning can be applied from kindergarten through twelfth grade without compromising the curricular objectives of the subject matter.

 

The UDL framework accommodates for ALL learners in three key ways:

  • Engagement:  The “why” of learning

  • Representation:  The “what” of learning

  • Action and Expression:  The “how” of learning

 

By creating lessons that are designed for all learners, the teacher has opened the door for everyone to benefit from the instruction presented in that classroom.  

Behavior Is Communication. To Help Kids, Adults Need To Listen

September 22, 2017

As children develop, they learn how to “live” inside their skin, but that development varies in each child.  Through each stage of growth, children emerge by overcoming angst, frustration, and uncertainty.  Managing their bodies against their emergent abilities can create a great deal of unrest within them and that can result in difficult behaviors.  By acknowledging that behavior is a form of communication, parents and teachers can address behavior by helping them to find a new way to express themselves.

 

Deciphering the meaning behind behavior can be accomplished by studying the circumstances around that behavior.  By employing some helpful strategies, a better understanding can be achieved:

  1. Keep a journal: Document the ABC’s of behavior (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence).

  2. Use breaks to reflect on behavior:  Taking a moment can help build understanding.

  3. Motor activities can be used to release negative energy:  Exercise can be a great tool in managing behavior.

  4. Calmness is the key:  As children learn to manage their behavior, it is helpful to remain calm in order to provide guidance.

  5. Quiet can be louder than yelling:  Supporting children who demonstrate difficult behavior can create intensity for the adults who support them, but by employing a quiet approach, the child’s energy can be redirected effectively.

 

By taking the time to watch and listen to children’s behavior, supports can be developed to address any problematic behaviors with understanding. 

The "Power" Of The Pause

September 21, 2017

We live in a fast paced, constantly changing society with ever increasing demands on our time.  Voicemails, e-mails and text messages demand our immediate attention.  As everyone rushes just to keep up, our children are watching.  All of that “rushing” limits our abilities to use one of our most powerful tools, the “pause”.  What would happen if we took the time to think and reflect on our next course of action?  Pausing can provide that moment of reflection, but to use it to its most beneficial advantage, a thoughtful approach must be employed.

 

A pause is defined as a temporary stop or rest, especially in either speech or action.  That “pause” can lead to a practice known as “mindfulness”.  When used with purpose, that “pause” can give us an opportunity to connect both our outer selves and our inner selves in a manner that increases our awareness of who we are and how to proceed.  When we can recognize how our emotions interact with our physical bodies, then our thoughts can become more than “just thoughts”; those thoughts can guide us to a more connected way of taking action. By applying our understandings of ourselves, we can take that pause and use it effectively in our future actions.

 

Applying this type of reflective action is a process and kids benefit from some guidance to learn how to use the pause to its best advantage.  Try these strategies:

  1. Keep it simple: Help kids to notice how their bodies feel

  2. Create multisensory opportunities: Introduce sounds to build sense awareness

  3. Introduce it as a routine: Choose a time of day to infuse a mindfulness routine

  4. Make walking a mindful opportunity: Use a walk to build mindfulness skills

  5. Emotional weather report: Using weather, as a metaphor, can help build emotional awareness

 

Teaching the power of the “pause” is a process, but when mastered, it can be applied for a lifetime.

Encourage Positive Behavior With Attention To Authentic Praise

August 25, 2017

All children benefit from at least one person in their lives that stands out as their “champion”.  As children and families embark on a new school year, it is critical to shift the conversation from weaknesses to strengths.    This idea seems very straightforward, but unfortunately, most teachers give far more attention to providing corrective comments, than they do to providing authentic praise.

 

Educating students is a highly complex, multi-faceted activity and guiding students toward academic and behavioral achievements must incorporate “correction”, but to foster student success it is equally important to provide students acknowledgement of positive performance as well.  Research has identified that in most public schools, those positive comments are given at a much lower percentage than those more familiar corrective comments.  In order to shift the attention from corrective to encouragement it has been suggested that the ratio of correction should be 1:4; therefore, for each correction, students should receive four “authentic” positive praise statements.  The key to this is the concept is “authentic” praise.

 

All people appreciate kind statements, but authentic praise is much more powerful.  The praise statement must incorporate specific language that identifies the positive behavior that merits the praise.  In the simplest of terms, tell kids what they’re doing “right”, even if that behavior is embedded in inappropriate behavior.  For example, if a student is calling out in the classroom, which would merit a corrective comment, the teacher could acknowledge the student’s interest in participating, but provide guidance on how to share their ideas in a more appropriate manner.

 

This strategy also applies to guidance at home.  Parents work so hard to support their children, but just as teachers correct their students, parents can also engage in more corrections than praise.  Kids are drawn to attention and on occasion, their attraction to that attention can result in negative behavior because corrective feedback may be more pronounced.  By decreasing the level of intensity provided for correction and increasing attention when kids demonstrate positive behavior, parents can shift their children’s attention, so that they seek out that larger positive praise.

 

Be the champion by encouraging positive performance through the power of authentic praise.

Take The Time To Listen To Your Children’s Concerns About Returning To School

July 21, 2017

Thinking about a new school year can be an exciting time for kids, new friends, new teachers, and challenging new concepts to learn; yet, for many students, feelings of anxiety can over-shadow any of their positive anticipation.  If your child experienced negative peer interactions, academic difficulties, or emotional breakdowns at school, returning to that environment can trigger significant anxiety.

 

Acknowledging that the emotions felt by children are “real” can be a powerful first step in supporting children in the management of those powerful feelings.  It is important to separate emotions from the events, which may have triggered those emotions. 

 

Help your children by supporting their concerns by considering the following resources:

  • Work with mental health professionals, if emotional concerns are demonstrated

  • Keep communication open to allow your child to share their worries

  • Parents help their children by managing their own anxiety about returning to school

  • Teachers play a significant role in supporting student success, so work closely with the school team to prepare for a positive start to the school year

  • Avoid anticipating failures in order to allow new starts to bring fresh perspectives

  • Use past accomplishments to illustrate student strengths

  • Guide children to see themselves as “capable” to meet new challenges

  • Highlight new opportunities for future successes

 

A person’s state of mind and personal perspectives plays a large role in how he/she might interpret their worldview.  Parents, teachers, therapists, and support personnel can alleviate student worries by helping to shape how a new school year can provide a clean slate for new beginnings, which can lead to new accomplishments in the year ahead.

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