Educators: Three Helpful Mindset shifts
More and more, educators are encountering challenging student behaviors. While we may be making progress in identifying students who need extra support, and providing services for these individuals, educators can still get in their own way when it comes to addressing challenging behavior. A lack of recognition about the way that Adverse Childhood Experiences influence behavior can lead to undesirable outcomes.
Here are a few unproductive ways I sometimes hear educators use to try to resolve challenging behavior:
- What will he (or she) work for? This and other variations of thinking “we just need to find the right motivator” is an unreliable approach. Children with behavioral issues can not suddenly acquire the frontal lobe functioning and skills to perform new and more adaptive behaviors simply because they’re offered candy or prizes. It is more complex than that, and while a treat may occasionally yield success for a moment, it will not likely have any long term impact on the root of the behaviors.
- What is the trigger for the behavior? People are not so mechanistic that we can identify what single button gets pushed to cause a certain behavior. Behavior is a result of many influences, internal and external. What triggers a student today, might change tomorrow. Understanding a pattern of behavior can be helpful, but it cannot eliminate triggers altogether.
- Medication is the golden ticket! I’ve worked with kids both on and off medication over my 28 year career. I’ve seen it work to varying degrees, but I’ve yet to see it be the only missing ingredient. Even in cases where medication is the right course, there are still environmental changes that should change for the child to make measurable progress.
Trauma Informed practices offer a more productive framework.
In the end, there must be a recognition of the underlying current that is present with many students who exhibit challenging behavior. Students with ACEs cannot be managed simply by finding the right motivator, or enforcing stricter rules and consequences. It is analogous to only treating a symptom, not the illness. Rather, the entire atmosphere and environment around the student must be examined and purposefully constructed. This eye towards being more trauma-informed will yield infinitely better results than only focusing on the behavior alone.