GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR DEALING W/ CHALLENGING BEHAVIOR
1. Challenging behavior is a form of communication. Think in terms of what the individual may be trying to communicate (often they don’t know themselves).
2. Discipline and consequences are designed to teach something. Ask yourself what you want to teach and what might be the best way to teach it.
3. An incident requiring a disciplinary consequence is an opportunity to teach as many things as we can. In other words, try to fold as much as possible into the consequence (kill as many birds as you can with the stone).
4. Discipline does not have to punish or hurt to be effective. The best consequences do not hurt or punish but preserve dignity and respect.
5. Avoid power struggles at all costs. This leads to more negative behavior.
6. Never implement a discipline or consequence when angry or upset.
7. As a rule, it’s best to think an incident through before determining a discipline or consequence. Therefore, avoid giving a punishment or consequence on the spot.
8. Exception—An incident violating the rights of another individual needs to be dealt with on-the-spot (at least verbally). Diffuse the situation first and you can always wait until later to discuss the consequence.
9. Be flexible. If one thing does not work “try another way”. There is always more than one way to handle a situation and many of them can be effective.
10. It’s OK to “let it go” as long as it’s clear you are consciously making the decision to do so. If you “let it go” get the individual to come up with their own consequence for future use “if it happens again”. It’s a good idea to get them to write out their agreement to abide by the consequence they came up with “if it happens again.”
11. “Letting it go” is golden opportunity to discuss the problem, make plans to eliminate the problem and develop an action plan for future infractions.
12. Never use the same discipline twice with the same individual if it wasn’t effective the first time.
13. It’s OK to use different methods with different people. Don’t fall for the “it’s not fair” trap. Let them know it doesn’t have to be fair, only appropriate. Life generally isn’t fair so it’s best not to encourage the belief that things HAVE to be fair. The “it must be fair” concept will cause a host of emotional and relational problems in the long run. You can say, “it would be nice if things were fair but often they aren’t so you may as well learn to deal with it.”
14. Use what works and stop using what doesn’t work.
15. Out think them; don’t try to out-will them.
16. Be creative.
17. Use humor as much as possible. Humor works especially well with people who are naturally oppositional. (Never make fun of or tease the individual).
18. Use the dynamics of group process to your advantage. Process the incident with the group (you don’t have to use names—this is referring to when you are working with a group of children)
19. Never use shame, guilt, humiliation, threats, intimidation (either directly or by implication).
20. Be as positive as possible. Remind the individual of several things they do well or things you like about them.
21. Communicate compassion and respect at all times.
22. Maintain dignity (the other person’s and yours)
23. Don’t take it personally. (It really isn’t about you.)
24. Know your own triggers (sore spots) and take steps to eliminate them.
25. For every one negative, point out three positives.
26. Separate the behavior from the individual—“I like you, I just don’t like what you did.”
27. Always phrase things in a way that tells the individual what they can rather than what they cannot do. (Never use the word “don’t”).
- “Stop” instead of “Don’t do that”
- “Walk” instead of “Don’t run”
- “Get off the furniture” instead of “Don’t stand on the chair”
- “Move” instead of “Don’t block the door”
- “No hitting” instead of “Don’t hit”
- “Hands down (or off)” instead of “Don’t touch”
28. Use the power of positive programming. (Very powerful)
- “I know you’re an honest person so why do you keep lying?”
- “I know you’re a nice person so why do you keep acting mean?”
- “I know you aren’t really like this so let’s talk about why you keep acting this way.’
29. Ideas for discipline:
- Essays (300 words = 1 page)
- Acts of kindness
- “Consequence jar”
- Write Definitions
- Research a subject
- Book reports
- Write a story related to the incident
- Write a poem related to the incident
- Write a song related to the incident (rap songs are good)
- Write/perform a skit related to the incident
- Work-sheets on academic or self-help subjects
- “If you were a counselor (or parent) what would you do in this situation
- Community service type things (1 hour picking up trash in a park