Attempting to control disruptive behavior is one of the most difficult struggles in our classrooms and our homes. If a child has suffered serious neglect or abuse in the past, regulating and gaining control of their behavior is quite difficult. We often attempt to argue or persuade, and it seems to have little or no impact.
Our good friend and child trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry, has provided us with some helpful insight into why just talking or commanding doesn’t work.
“We must regulate people before we can possibly persuade them with a cognitive argument or compel them with an emotional affect.”
In other words, if a child is not regulated then it will be hard to have much impact on their behavior no matter what you say or do.
Yet, there are options that do work to help a child who is highly anxious or dysregulated.
Dr. Perry cites research that suggests, “The only way to move from these super-high anxiety states, to calmer more cognitive states, is rhythm,” he says. “Patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity: walking, running, dancing, singing, repetitive meditative breathing…You use brain stem-related somatosensory networks which make your brain accessible to relational (limbic brain) reward and cortical thinking.
Rather than attempting to motivate through a more cognitive or “talking” approach a better strategy might be to divert the child to a more sensory and rhythmic activity such as walking, running, drumming, singing a song, etc.
Most of us have been taught the best way to regulate behavior is to do something confrontational or punitive. It seems a better approach is simply to say, “Let’s take a walk.” Or suggest something that will be more patterned and consistent that will eventually help them hear us when we start processing with them from a more logical point of view.
Dr. Perry further suggests if we are trying to heal trauma, there are approaches that must be used consistently with children. He talks about the capacity and approach to healing childhood trauma by what he names the Six R’s:
- Relational (safe)
- Relevant (developmentally-matched to the individual)
- Repetitive (patterned)
- Rewarding (pleasurable)
- Rhythmic (resonant with neural patterns)
- Respectful (of the child, family, and culture)
This valuable research with the ensuing processes for regulating children and students has revolutionized how we helped thousands of students at Lakeside.
Lakeside’s new online course Neurologic is our adaptation of Dr. Perry’s work.
Neurologic offers proven methods for teachers and caregivers who want to help children and teenagers find new ways to cope with a myriad of issues. Neurologic uses regulation techniques to address typical behavioral issues with a brain-based and trauma-informed approach.
You can find out more about our Neurologic training by clicking here, or visiting our website at www.lakesidelink.com. I know you not only will find the information but also revolutionary in helping your students, too.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO