Emotional Explosions. Like wrestling a bag of wasps. What should you NOT do and What SHOULD you do?
Ever heard yourself telling someone who is as mad as a bag of wasps to “calm down?” How did that go then? Yeah I thought so. Me too. As a seasoned social worker of 20 years I heard myself say this to a young person once. And yes, I got stung. Hard.
Telling someone to calm down when they are clearly not in control of their emotions at that moment is like poking a bag of wasps, insulting their mother's, and then opening the bag! Not pretty, very noisy and someone always gets hurt!
Telling someone what you want them to feel when they are clearly feeling something else is futile. This is because all behaviour, (whether it is inconvenient, convenient, pleasant or otherwise) is communication. And if you haven’t received the message (and shown that you have received the message) then the person trying to communicate with you will escalate the behaviour until the message is received.
This is why ignoring your child’s inconvenient behaviour is just not effective. It will escalate it as they try to connect with you, or they will redirect it somewhere, sometime or to somebody else. So what can you do? Well it’s simple. To coin a catchphrase - "Say what you see". Don’t describe what you want them to feel, describe how they are actually feeling. Examples might be...
“You are furious, I can see that, what can I do to help?”
“You seem really angry with me, I’m sorry you’re feeling so mad.”
“You are so disappointed about the party being cancelled, I know, I would feel that way too, but please don’t kick the back of the car seat.”
You may have to repeat the displayed feeling several times but as you correctly identify their feeling the emotion dissipates a little each time, and as you match the newly reduced emotion with a different word, you are helping your child to connect feelings to words - you are teaching emotional literacy - a key skill for emotional regulation. Here's an example in helping a child who was picked last for the school footie team and appeared at their mother's car after school ready to kill dead things:
“You are FURIOUS!!, something must have happened, tell me about it.” And then,
“You are still SO mad, I can tell this is a really big deal for you.” And then,
“You are angry, that is understandable, you must feel hurt by being picked last.” And then,
“You are disappointed and feel left out and unimportant, and those are hard feelings. I get it. You will always be loved and included in our family.”
This builds emotional regulation and intelligence skills where your child will start to recognise that the feeling they are experiencing is disappointment not anger, or hurt, not anger, or panic not anger.
Anger is a pseudo-emotion. That is one we use to express other more complicated, vulnerable and difficult to express emotions. It is an easier emotion to express, it is effective in that it gets the attention of people and it communicates something is wrong. But it isn’t really the crux of the matter and if we are to really soothe and help our children solve their problems, we need to get to the crux of the matter. If you are interested in learning more about how to communicate restoratively and to effect better connection with your children, students or partner, reach out. We'd love to help.
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.
We often see self care as an indulgence. But it really isn't. It's a routine and necessary practice to ensure the safety of our body, mind, and soul. Here are 7 simple self care tips that you can start to build into your daily routine to self care.
I know I go on and on and on about boundaries. But they are so important. Like next to oxygen itself important. Otherwise you will end up used, abused and burnt out. Set. Your. Boundaries. What do I mean by this? Plan your time realistically, schedule regular breaks, input joy and pleasure into those breaks (even if it is just one Fortnum and Mason Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie), don't over promise and under-deliver - (it's a serious motivation killer), and learn to say NO.
Set time aside to check in with how you are feeling. You can use a simple form of restorative questions for this. What am I feeling? How is this affecting me? What do I need? How can I do this?
Plan it or Let it Go
If it is within your control - plan it. I use a simple frame to do this, (see below). If it is not within your control - Let it go!
Recognise that Fear is the Shadow of Gratitude
When we fear something it is most often because we have something of value that we don't want to lose. Turn it on it's head and shine a light on that shadow of fear by identifying what it is that you have that you fear losing. Then say thank you for being lucky enough to have that. The Gratitude Attitude.
This might mean getting up 30 minutes earlier to enjoy the first cup of tea of the day in peace and quiet. It might be a work out routine after work, or a 30 minute meditation before bed. It might even be to write a list of things you want to achieve the next day (but remember, don't over promise and under deliver - even to yourself!)
Pay Attention to Negative Self Talk
Monitor your self talk. We are prone to the negative self talk which is so subtle and insidious, but oh so dangerous at eroding our sense of value and worth. The "I can't", "I'll fail," "Who Do I think I am?" "What's the point?" language which over time translates into a sense of us not being enough. Don't do it. When you hear yourself saying negative things about yourself in your head, imagine you are saying it to your best friend. What would they say back to you? This is the advice you should listen to.
Hug it Out
This is a particular favourite of mine. I'm a hugger. And there is so much evidence out there that hugging calms the nervous system and helps us to co-regulate. Find someone to be your co-hugger, Covid bubbles permitting. (And always ask permission otherwise it's just not cool and quite possibly illegal).
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.
Let's face it, if the answer on to how to move back into schools safely, meeting the education and mental health needs of students, parents, and teachers was squirrelled away in the Principal's office, not one of us would think twice about creeping in there, full on ninja style, and stealing it. And we would probably find ourselves waiting in a (socially distanced) queue behind everyone else with the same desire for answers. But what if everyone is looking to you for answers and you don't have them? You wouldn't be the first school leader who found out what was happening in your school on the 6 o'clock news. That's not a comfortable place to be.
Despite not having the answers to all the questions, there is still a need for School Leaders to lead in this journey of uncertainty and to do this in ways that are inclusive and build resilience. The first step in this journey is admitting that you don't have all the answers, but that you are doing everything you can to get the right information, and to share that fully with your staff, parents and where appropriate your students. But this is an unfolding situation and you have little idea of when or what you might be facing in the next peak. I travelled the Amazon river in my early thirties, and had a very sage guide called Julio who, when asked what sort of weather we should dress for that day, replied "all of it". And so we prepare.
Be Prepared to Collaborate
In preparation you must collaborate with the people you are leading. And not just to tell them what is happening, but to ask them where they are at right now, where their children, students, parents are at right now. What their biggest fears, worries, and wishes are going forward. And then you need to do the same with the parents, and with the children. They will all bring something different to the story, a different angle, a fresh perspective, a nugget of importance that might just be the key that opens the door to a way forward in meeting education needs alongside mental health needs.
It is tempting to diminish the need to do the ground work of mental and emotional health support in favour of getting back to basics with Maths and English, but we know from years of research that until a child feels safe and secure they cannot work on belonging and self worth. And that until they feel that they belong and are worthy, they will not have the confidence to take a risk to try something that realises their potential. Asking "What do you need from me going forward?" is a crucial question. This is not a promise to deliver outcomes, it is a question to understand needs. "Seek first to understand and then to be understood." as Stephen Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People famously said.
Hold Values Close
Good leaders hold their values close at times of struggle. Get really clear on what these values are. Make sure you have buy in from your team. Make sure your parents, your staff, your children understand what they are. Is it safety? Is it life long learning? Is it safety and love? Is it striving for the best? Is it reaching your potential?
Give Permission and Promote Accountability of Others and Themselves
Good leaders also create safe spaces and permission to share needs and struggles. Now, most teachers, in fact most people, I talk to about the importance of permission do a little eye roll here. "Of course people have permission to speak openly!" they say. But do they really? Think about this. You can have the best model in the world which pushes a permission agenda encouraging you to talk openly about fears, anxieties, upsets and conflict, but if you don't cultivate this everyday, lead by example and hold others accountable when they don't protect the permission culture, you will not only completely ruin the permission, you will actually further dis-empower people to speak openly. I have seen this done with a throwaway comment made by a leader or about another staff member or pupil, denigrating them, dismissing them, or a decision they made. I have seen it done by colleagues and peers and it went unchecked by a leader. This creates fear. Fear to speak out and have your view respected, not just right now, while you stand in the room, but after you leave and are no longer there to defend yourself. And fear as a culture will create more shame and silence than you could ever imagine. Because those people watching and listening to you being denigrated or dismissed or eye-rolled at after you have left the room, will never have permission to speak their truth safely.
Listen, Listen and Listen
Good Leaders organise time to consult with everyone. To seek out the views of everyone, not just the talkers and the confident kids and parents. To find ways to hear what the less communicative students, parents and teachers think. Provide different ways to be heard, publicly, anonymously, verbally, in writing, through text, phone call, the means of soliciting the views of others are many and varied. Two ears one mouth. Enough said.
Are Kind to Themselves
This is by no means the least important. Good leaders know that they have to self care. They know that a burned out leader is as much use as a handbrake on a canoe. Take regular breaks, ensure you have a day when you aren't taking phone calls, writing contingency plans, measuring out 1 metre distanced desks or developing strategies for the toilet run. Whether you have a faith or not, keep one day sacred. For you.
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.
Do you ever find yourself standing in front of people, holding your breath, trying very hard not to say the words that you are feeling? Me too.
I don't know about you, but for me these moments are laced with fear. Fear that I will burn my bridges, get my card marked, appear like a victim, appear like a bully, lose control, be wrong, be right, cry, stumble, say the wrong words, be laughed at, be ridiculed, be rejected, excluded, humiliated. The list goes on, and it is long!
Our biggest challenge to speaking our truth is our belief that being vulnerable is weakness. Vulnerability, that moment when you put yourself out there with no safety net, risking judgement and rejection is not weakness, it is courage beyond belief. Practising that courage is painful. But there are boundaries you can work within to survive doing this hugely important but difficult work in yourself and with others.
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.
In this case example from a primary school in Northern Ireland, Ms Creighton, shows how a problem solving circle can be used to harness the cooperation and collaboration of a group of children. The first skill I love about Ms Creighton's example is her self awareness that her feelings of irritation stem from her own needs being impacted and her recognition that the children's chatter was simply inconvenient at that point in time and that in other circumstances their engagement with each other would have been very convenient). Turning away from the blaming approach she engages her second restorative skill, the grace to invite the children in to solve the conflict of needs that they were in together, together.
The noise in the class had risen several times and Ms Creighton was struggling to hear the children reading at the front of the class. She was feeling frustrated, distracted and more than just a little stressed. She could feel her anger rise. She checked her emotions and quickly asked herself three questions. "What do I need?", "Why do I need that?" and "What happens if I don't get it?" She took a deep breath and moved to the front of the class.
She raised her voice slightly, smiling and said "Girls and boys! Let's circle up." Without any fuss, the children, all around 7 or 8 years old, shuffled forward and sat in a haphazard circle. All eyes on Ms Creighton, she said "I have a problem and I need your help." The kids gazed at her. She continued, "I love it when you talk about your work, but at the moment the noise in the room is so loud that I can't hear your friends reading to me and I need to be able to hear their reading so I know how they are doing. Can you help me solve this?"
The children began to talk, one after the other moving clockwise around the circle. "We could put our fingers on our lips Ms." "We could whisper Ms." "We could put our heads down and go to sleep for a while Ms" (I love this kid - he is my kind of kid).
Ms Creighton smiled and responded to each of the suggestions, "That's a good idea...that might work...not sure about that one but its a lovely fantasy isn't it? "
Then she asked the children, "How will we know if our solution is working?" Again the children made suggestions. "You will be able to hear Ms Creighton...you won't have to ask us to circle up again... the room will be quieter..."
"Excellent work boys and girls. Now one last thing, what can you all do to make sure this solution works?" One by one they all made a commitment to whisper or to be quiet. The class returned to their seats, and Ms Creighton returned to the front of the class and the children began reading again. The noise rose again, and with just a glance from Ms Creighton, a few children shushed their friends and the noise subsided again.
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.
As we all begin to move towards our new normal in the school setting, teachers, children and parents, are all wondering how to manage the losses of Corona Virus and how to take forward the opportunities that have come from this experience.
Talking Circles are a great starting point. We have all experienced loss. For some of us it has been the loss of a friend or family member who has died because of the Virus and for some of us it has been a loss of connection with friends and family or the familiarity and security of our normal routine. For some of us it has been a loss of reprieve and distance from abusive family members whom we have had to stay in lock down with, or the loss of a predictable meal once a day at school.
Being able to express these losses in a safe place will be a key starting point in beginning to restore a sense of understanding, of control and of safety. Circles give teachers, parents and children an opportunity to express these losses so that we can begin to connect with each other again and find our common interest in planning ways to look after each other and heal as we move forward.
It is important to do this work before returning to the curriculum of schooling. Children, parents and teachers have all experienced an undermining of their feelings of security. And there still exists fear and uncertainty around the virus and if or how you might infect or be infected by one another. We know that when people are pre-occupied with their basic needs of safety and security, they cannot focus on engaging, problem solving or learning.
Google Classrooms, Zoom Meetings and Microsoft Teams among other digital platforms have been used to engage in live ways with children, and whilst these are great ways to communicate from distance, we must remember that for many children and parents, smart phones and digital platforms are not accessible. Poverty, poor network coverage and digital know-how, all have an impact on how accessible these formats of communication are.
So bear in mind that if you do choose to do a circle through online platforms before returning to the school room, take note of those children or parents who did not, or were unable to join and make sure you connect with them to ask the same questions, even if this means doing a "socially distanced" circle in the first week of a return to school. And don't forget your teachers, classroom assistants, and support staff.
Some Guiding Principles
Here are some suggested questions, loosely based on the restorative script which will help guide your discussions.
Don't forget to highlight the Circle Agreements for everyone before beginning. There are many variations of these, but as a core set of agreements I like:
Stay safe, and take care of each other, LJ
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.
A famous and experienced pianist took a break in the middle of a concert to chat to his audience. Whilst chatting, a child ran onto the stage and began to bash away at the piano, to the wide open mouths of the audience. The pianist, smiled, turned and sat down beside the child. Then he began to play alongside him. Using his competence and knowledge of the piano he began to compliment the notes the child hit, building on them and the beginning of a beautiful song emerged. The child smiled and played more intently, listening to the famous Pianists notes, watching his fingers, copying his riff’s. They played for a few more minutes before they stood up together and took a bow, connected by their shared music and attached to each other in this new relationship of collaboration.
Teaching is just like this – as is any role where you provide discipline (from the Latin verb “to learn”). But how you do, and who does this is up for grabs. I’m a pancake wizard. It is my calling on this earth to provide perfect and yummy pancakes. On our kitchen wall it is written “I love you… I made you pancakes.” I started to teach my son how to make them when he was about 5. Now he will remind me regularly, “butter in before the milk or it will go lumpy.” He’s nearly 10 and he is still mastering the “flip” but he’s getting there and nowadays we eat more pancakes than we do clean them up off the floor. Progress. Learning. But he also teaches me things. Like yesterday he taught me how to build my dream home in Minecraft. It has two, completely glass walls overlooking a lake below. I doubt very much if it is architecturally secure, but it looks amazing.
One of my step-sons (to be), given a reprieve from GCSE’s this year because of Corona-Virus, took on the challenge of supervising my 10 year old’s school work while I am out working. He is remarkably good at it and is now nick named “The Professor”. I watched his style – he was all “I don’t know J, let’s try it out together and see if it works.” Curiosity and Collaboration – two of the most important things in learning.
Whether it is the story of the pianist you remember, or the pancakes, or of 16 year old’s supervising 10 year old’s school work, remember that learning discipline works best when you use curiosity and collaboration alongside the expectation to discipline – when you are “with them in it.” If you are interested in learning more about social discipline styles and the impact they have on a child’s capacity to learn as well as on the environment in which they learn be that the classroom or the kitchen table, then check out our online Introduction to Restorative Practices in Education Settings here: https://sayers-training-services.teachable.com/purchase?product_id=1951147
Group Discounts are also available – just contact Linda on 07805093965 to find out more.
Why do we find it so hard to say no? Being a “people-pleaser” I have struggled with this all my life. And I don’t mind telling you it has landed me in some difficult situations, some of which were just downright risky. So why is it so difficult to just assert our true feelings about something and say “No – I disagree,” or “No, Don’t Do that to me,” or “No, I won’t do that for you.” Why are we sometimes so loose with our personal boundaries? Let’s dial back a few years to unpick this a little.
Toddlers are switched on. They get that they can say no and so they do. Without fear or favour. Just “uh uh.” “Nope.” “Not happening.” “NO!”
And then a few months after we are through with the dramatic eye rolls and chuckling to our friends about how cute wee Callie is saying “no” to everything like she is practising for government, we suddenly realise that shit just isn’t going to get done if wee Callie says “no” all the time.
And so we begin to “socialise” them. We manipulate their needs and behaviour for our convenience and we teach them that “no” is not a desirable word. That it isn’t nice, it’s wrong, perhaps even bold. We teach them not to make a fuss, to just button that lip and get on with it. We teach them that grown up’s, people who are bigger than them, have the final say about whether their “no” really matters or not.
Now like all parents, we don’t get a manual, we often haven’t a clue what the hell we are doing and mostly we are just repeating the histories of our own childhood. We think we are teaching children how to be sociable, how to get along in life with others, but really what we should be doing is teaching them how to explain why they don’t want to go to bed, put down the video game, share their favourite toy, kiss their auntie (don’t get me started on emotionally coercing your kids to kiss random relatives that they don’t want to), or why they don’t want to take their pants off their head.
Instead we skip this step and go straight to the convenience of a quick fix. A guilting and shaming of the “no” word, of exercising the right to make a choice. We say “don’t defy me,” or “it’s naughty to not do as you are told” or (my worst one) “no one will want to play with you if you don’t share your toys.” We communicate that by saying “no” we risk disconnection or worse, rejection. And what do kids want more than anything else? To belong and connect. And so they conform. They learn to say “yes” when they want to say “no”. And big people are pleased and little people reinforce their belief that “no”’is a bad word.
At the lower end of the continuum this creates teenagers and adults who are overwhelmed by saying yes to too much, who have a fragile ego based on “if I don’t say yes to everything then I will not be good enough to be liked.” But imagine it at the worst end of this continuum. Imagine it for a child who learns not to say no when they are uncomfortable with a predatory adults behaviour, or a teenage girl or boy on a night out who doesn’t want to make a fuss and says yes when they really want to say no, to alcohol, to drugs, to sex.
Basically, we are conditioned to say “yes,” to be agreeable, compliant, obedient, helpful and facilitative. Educating our children and ourselves in how to exercise our free will (with positive loving morals) and to say “no” is an important life skill. Learning to say no has been one of the best things I have done for my self-care. I still find it difficult, but I am learning to sit with that difficulty and face down the demons of rejection and displeasure of others.
When was the first time you realised you were not colourblind? That you think, interpret, and value the world in colour? That you are also part of racial discrimination through your ignorance to be aware of it?
For me I was about 21 / 22. About to start my social work course full of ideas about how I might “change the world.”
It was watching Matthew McConaughey as a white lawyer making his final summing up in the trial of Carl Lee Hailey, a black father who shoots the men who raped and battered his 10 year old daughter. It was when he said “now imagine she is white.”
How did you feel when you watched that film? Did it highlight something uncomfortable for you?
I watched that film feeling angry and horrified about the rape of Tonya by two white men, but until those words were uttered I was unaware that I watched it as a white woman. It was very uncomfortable realising in that moment that I was inherently part of a system, an institution, a group, that saw ourselves as more valuable, important, worthy, than black people.
If we are to really change the world, it begins with admitting who you are and what your cultural inheritance has placed in you. And then working every day to change you.
Storytelling sometimes gets a bad reputation. It is seen as exaggeration, day dreaming or telling lies. But I believe story telling is more about promoting the painful or joyous parts of an experience rather than exaggeration, about visions of better futures rather than day dreaming, and about transforming a difficult experience into a desire for what it should of, or could have been, rather than telling lies.
Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of recording in the world. People used it to educate, to pass down family history, cultural traditions and moral values. Obviously over the years stories change, interpretations are made according to the culture or politics of the day, sometimes words are changed, replaced or erased.
There is an interesting challenge to be considered around the journey of stories and who it is that holds centre stage in the telling of stories that reach the masses, which change, replace or erase the words and direction of stories in history and ultimately the story that is told in future generations. When people of one race (or predominantly one race) hold this power, and we do not challenge this or push against it, we are complicit in the smelly water of generational and institutionalised racism. Promotion of the voices of others is a requirement of someone who calls themselves anti-racist or anti anything for that matter. It needs to have many positions which are “against” the predominate other. It is not a neutral or passive position.
Storytelling is a very powerful medium for communicating experiences, ideology, and desires of the past, present and future. In restorative practice storytelling is central to understanding the experiences of all involved in relationships with each other. Here are 3 ways you can use story telling within restorative practice in anti-oppressive ways.
I would love to hear your recommendations for more.
He fell over again today. I mean, how many times do I have to pull him back up again before he gets this? I think he is doing it deliberately. I have decided I’m not going to help him anymore. If he doesn’t want to learn well that’s his problem.
This is ridiculous isn’t it? Would you ever give up on teaching your child the skill to walk? No of course you wouldn’t. Behaving in a socially acceptable way, being in relationships with others and knowing how to get your needs met without harming others is a skill that needs to be learned and taught just like walking.
But still I get asked, (way too often) at what point do you stop “doing” restorative practice? At what point do you say “this just isn’t working let’s stop”. The answer is never. I always work to restorative principles and values – even when the child is not engaged in resolving the conflict or harm they have been involved in or caused. Children learn by watching, by trying and failing and making mistakes. And they do it at different paces arriving at skill mastery at different times from their peers.
I see glimmers of responsibility or accountability all the time from children who have been written off as having “no empathy”, “no conscience.” The difference? They show these glimmers with people they care about, and respect, people they have a relationship with. This tells me that the first step to teaching anything, whether it is how to walk, how to behave or how to do trigonometry, is to develop a relationship with the child first.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are children who are harder to reach and harder to teach, and let’s not get all sanctimonious here – it is never their fault, so there is no child who is not deserving of someone who will reach for them and teach to them. No child. Even the ones that drive you round the bend!
“And if those children are unresponsive, maybe you can't teach them yet, but you can love them. And if you love them today, maybe you can teach them tomorrow.” Jeffrey R Holland
If you would like to know more about how to work restoratively with children who will not engage in resolving the conflict reach out for a conversation about our Introduction to Restorative Practices Workshops or our Developing Restorative Practices Workshops. And if you just want to check out what it is all about before you commit that’s ok too, you can do this by purchasing our most popular programme of 2020 since lockdown, “Online Introduction to Restorative Practices” here:
Broken Promises – The Couldn’t / Wouldn’t Phenomena
"The promise given was a necessity of the past, the word broken is a necessity of the present"
The “Couldn’t” “Wouldn’t” Phenomena.
So what do you do when it all goes Pete Tong and the child who caused harm doesn’t do what they agreed they would? You’ve been through the restorative process and it worked really well, the two children in conflict told their respective stories, they developed understanding of what happened and how it affected each other and agreements were made to repair the harm and prevent similar harm from happening again. And then the promises get broken. The child doesn’t turn up for their therapeutic input with the school pastoral care, or they stop making the small restitution payments for the phone they smashed belonging to their friend, or they start bullying again. What do you do?
Sometimes, in fact often, these broken promises get met with the “it didn’t work – Restorative Practices are rubbish” condemnation from those who participated. And yet is this really fair? Particularly with children? What adult, as a child, hasn’t made a promise and then reneged on it, or made a half-assed effort? For that matter, what adult, as an adult, hasn’t made a promise and then reneged on it? Children are learning. They are still forming their character and moral compass as they go through life, and it is perfectly natural for them to break promises or lose motivation.
So what do we do? We hold them to account. We teach them to keep their word, and (just in case you were wondering) it doesn’t matter if it was an important promise or not, it doesn’t matter if it was almost finished or not, it matters that we hold them to the promise they made, in the spirit they made it. It is important not just for the person they hurt and made the promise to, it is important as a life skill. Someday our children will be asked to commit to paying a mortgage or rent for a home they live in. They will be asked to commit to a person to respect, love and honour them. They will be asked to commit to turning up everyday for a job that they will receive money for doing. And if we don’t teach the importance of keeping their commitment, they may well end up homeless, lonely and with no prospects. Teaching commitment is a life skill.
Let’s look at what is going on when children fail to keep a promise they made.
When children fail to keep a promise they have made there can be a variety of reasons why. It isn’t necessarily that they just couldn’t be bothered, although this is sometimes the case – I have a 9 year old and two teenage steps sons and believe me – sometimes they just can’t be bothered!
From my days back in Youth Justice, when we used Circles of Support and Accountability to enable highly vulnerable young people to achieve, I have always found the frame below really effective in helping me to figure out how to handle a broken promise.
This basically works on two axis (the “Could Not” and the “Would Not,”) with a broken commitment or promise in the middle. The first thing we need to do is figure out why they have broken the commitment in the first place because this will direct whether we are going to be having a support conversation with them or an accountability conversation with them.
The Could Not Continuum – Capability or Crisis.
Capability is where the child has perhaps promised something which was too ambitious in the first place, or perhaps the child’s circumstances have changed and they are no longer capable of meeting the commitment in the form it was initially promised. Examples of an over ambitious commitment may be where a child promised to pay back the full cost of new blazer they ripped in a scuffle rather than pay for the professional repair of the jacket by a seamstress. Or perhaps they were making regular repayments for a repair of a school blazer they ripped, but a parent was made redundant and now his parents need most of his part time wages to help support the family.
Crisis is where something has happened which has temporarily prevented a child from doing something they promised they would. For example perhaps a child agreed to stay behind after school once a week, for the next 4 weeks and help the school janitor paint graffiti off a school wall, but on week 3 she doesn’t show up because her Gran was taken into hospital the night before and her mum needed her to come straight home and look after the younger kids so she could go and visit her mum.
In both of the above examples, and many more like them, a support conversation is invited.
In the first example your purpose is to either increase the child’s capability by resourcing them with the knowledge, skills or resources that they need to complete the promise they made, or perhaps by altering the boundary around the promise made – such as extending the period of time over which the child might make restitution for the damage he caused. It is never to dismiss the promise made as not important.
In the second example your purpose is to provide temporary relief of timescale, reinforce the promise made and help the child to strategise how she could have prevented this being a broken promise by sharing her crisis with a trusted staff member to ask for her day to be swapped to a different day or the timescale extended. Again, it is never to dismiss the promise made as not important enough to be followed through.
The Would Not Continuum – Commitment or Chancer
Commitment is where the child has lost focus on the reason why they made this promise in the first place. Commitment tends to be very high when the child is faced with the impact their behaviour has had on another person and they will be feel genuinely remorseful and motivated to resolve the harm they caused at the time they make their promise. But commitment is about maintaining the action to complete something long after the feelings which were present when you made the promise have passed. And in the fast paced life of a child – this can pass pretty quick! That doesn’t mean they are bad, or unaccountable, or liars, (or any other judgey-type labels) – it just means they’ve lost focus and need to be reminded through an accountability conversation.
The Chancer position is when a child is just chancing their arm to see if they can get away with not doing what they said they would. Now before we all nod sagely and knowingly and a little bit patronisingly, lets just put this in perspective. When was the last time you said you would meet your friend and go to the gym with them to get fit and then you made an excuse at the last minute because you’d had one glass of red wine / bottle of beer too many the night before? We are all chancers from time to time. It’s natural – the human brain is hard wired to take the easy route.
The Accountability Conversation
In both of the above examples, and many more like them, an accountability conversation is invited.
In the first example your purpose is to re-engage the child with their commitment and often a simple conversation about their promise will be enough to refocus and motivate their commitment to completing the action. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this might have to be repeated several times if the commitment they made is a long term one taking place over several weeks, so I would advise (if it is appropriate) to keep reparations short and sweet and if they are longer for more serious harms, then build in a quick 10 minute review at intervals.
In the second example your purpose is to re-engage the child in the feelings they had at the time of making the commitment , taking the child back to the reasons why they made the commitment, holding their word up as honourable and asking them to respect themselves by honouring their word.
In the second example it is to challenge the child to rise to your expectation and hopefully their own of being an honourable person who keeps their word. It is never to dismiss the promise made as not important.
Regardless of whether the conversation is a support conversation or an accountability conversation it is crucial that we hold children to account for the promises they have made. It is important that we highlight the impact that a broken promise has on us now and on them in the future. And it doesn’t matter if it is a little broken promise or a big one, or an almost completed promise or a just engaged in one – the important point is that we all need to learn to be accountable to others if we are to live in more peace and harmony.
If you would like to learn more about this way of managing conflict and holding to account in your school, you can complete our Introduction to Restorative Practices in Education online course here, by clicking on the link below, or contact Linda for more information on workshops on 07805093965.
One of the most common questions I encounter when working with educators in building restorative practice into their schools is “what do you do when a child flat out denies that they are responsible for a harm that has been caused?” This question goes to the very heart of why restorative practice is a culture that needs to be cultivated and not just an intervention applied at the point of conflict.
To understand what to do about this when it happens (and it will happen) you have to first understand the motivation behind why children (and adults) deny responsibility for something they have done that has caused harm to others. While the research on motivation for telling lies lists hundreds of reasons why someone might lie from protecting others, to tact, when it comes to school based examples there are a handful of common motivations.
This is probably the most common reason for telling a lie when a child is confronted with the direct question about what happened. If the child believes there will be a punishment following an admission then there is an increased motivation to tell a lie to avoid punishment. The lie is not an attempt to avoid responsibility (and this is an important distinction) the lie is told to avoid the punishment.
Concealing reward or benefit
In this case the motivation is to conceal the reward or benefit the child obtained by breaking an explicit or implicit rule which they were expected to follow. This could be anything from having stolen something from a peer to having peeked at their neighbours test sheet and copied the answer.
This is a common motivation when the child feels guilt about the impact of their actions but also fears that they will be shamed for that impact, rather than understood. An example might be the child who denies they were given the homework instead of admitting that they did not have enough money to buy the supplies to complete it.
Protecting someone else from harm
In this case the motivation is that the child does not want to get their friend into trouble. It might be because they can identify with their friends reasons for having acted as they did, and so in some way they approve of their actions. Or it can be that they feel the need to adhere to a “bro-code” even if they disagree with their friends actions. This one is difficult because on some level we, as a society, approve of the characteristic of loyalty that comes in hand with lying to protect someone else from harm. This is apparent from the derogatory words we use to describe someone who does tell on a friend like “snitches”, “rats”, “tout.”
Pain is the name of the game
Ultimately the underlying purpose of all of these motivations is the same. The purpose of avoiding pain which could be physical, social, or psychological pain. Human beings are hard wired to seek out pleasure and joy and to avoid pain and distress and our brain psychology has many ways of achieving this. Therefore the temptation to tell a lie when faced with pain as a possible outcome of telling the truth is a very strong one and it is not limited to children. We all have the capacity to tell lies, omit truths, or deny knowledge of something when the motivation to avoid a temporary painful experience outweighs the benefit of an admission.
If children believe that your intention behind discovery of “What Happened” is to punish, shame or cause pain (physical, social or psychological – even indirectly and unintentionally) then there is a strong motivation to avoid responsibility by denying fault. The Admit Nothing, Deny Everything, and Ask for Proof phenomena is likely to be even more acute with children (or adults) where they have had life experiences which have reinforced punishment or pain as a response to admitting responsibility or being found guilty of something. Children who have strong unresolved shame behaviours (see my earlier posts on shame behaviours) are highly motivated to avoid pain through any means necessary to protect their physical, social and psychological being.
But what if you build a culture where children understand your intention is not to punish, but to understand what happened so you can help them to repair harm, rebuild relationships, and develop strategies to meet their own needs which led to the harmful event in the first place? This sounds more complicated than it actually is. Most teachers I encounter in my training have these skills already but perhaps aren’t thinking about them explicitly or applying them deliberately in a consistent model of practice. As a result, when they are tired, their defences are down and they are “winging it,” (and lets be honest – we all do this from time to time because we are human too), then the wheels come off and we undo great progress we had previously made with children who are less confident about telling the truth and not being shamed and judged as a result. Don’t worry, if you have ruptured a relationship with a child through a momentary lapse of your superhero powers, you can repair this with daring to be vulnerable enough to admit to them that you got it wrong – and the impact of this on your relationship with them is so powerful you will wish you apologised more! See my earlier post on rupture and repair.
Building a restorative culture to reduce denial, lies, and avoidance?
So what are the key features of building a culture where children can feel able to risk being honest, knowing that there may be a temporary experience of discomfort but with a more permanent pleasurable outcome in the long term?
I remember my Dad telling me one day "parents don't always get it right." I don't remember what he had got wrong, but I remember the power that his apology had in that moment in validating a sense of injustice.
Build a child's sense of identity, who they are, what sense they make of their experiences and how the build resilience to cope with what the world will throw at them in the future, is so important. And yet as a parent I often get it wrong too. Even with all my training and experience, I still have days when I am Just. Not. Cutting. It.
I sometimes hear myself dismiss my son's concerns. Most often it is a misguided attempt to soothe his fears. But sometimes it is to "deal" with something quickly and get it "fixed" and "move on" because it is inconvenient for me to spend the time to really deal with his fears there and then.
Sometimes I feel intensely uncomfortable in just sitting with him and his fears, connecting with his worries and knowing I can't soothe them through wishing them away, but only through feeling them with him, validating and hearing him.
This article is really helpful in identifying things we commonly say to our children that do more harm than good.
In today's world where many children have so much and others so little, it has always been important to me to teach gratitude and gratefulness for the privilege we enjoy. For the many of us who have kids who want for very little - this comes with a challenge for parents. A challenge to ensure they don't become entitled. A challenge to ensure that they have what they need, but don't get everything they want. A challenge to ensure that they still understand what it is to earn something, to struggle for something or to go without, to wait and have patience, to prioritise one desire over another, to live in the real world. Because some day they will have to make their own way, hopefully teaching their own children these lessons and recognise they had privilege so that they can have gratitude for it and use what privilege they have to promote the needs of others.
Christine Carter said "If we want to be happy and raise happy kids, then we need to practice gratitude. The art of being grateful or we may end up feeling more entitled than appreciative. When we feel entitled we often stew about unfulfilled expectations. Disappointment is not a happiness habit, gratitude is."
There is a whole rake of research which shows that children are happier, healthier, more content, optimistic and more resilient when they feel gratitude regularly.
What can you do to teach gratitude? There are loads of ways but here are the 7 we use in our house.
1) Have your family count things they are grateful for. You can do this round the dinner table - we ask the kids to talk about one thing that they really enjoyed, felt good about each day or thankful for each day. What I love most about this is our relationships with each other are often the top feature in this discussion.
2) Use a gratitude jar. Fill this over the year with things that you notice about each other that you like or love. When you feel a little low, or angry or undervalued in your relationships - open the jar and share one or two of the contents with others. It will lift your spirits immediately and it's a great switch from seeing the negative in others (and yourself) to seeing the positive.
3) Lead by example. Comment on all the beautiful things you love and see in the world. Your children will start to do the same. My Dad used to do this and now I can never look at a mountain and just see a mountain - now I see every colour of purple and green and blue in that mountain. For me, I love the sunrise, autumn, that first glimpse of our home after a day at work, the smell of a peat fire, the glow of Christmas trees, the first hug of the day, the last hug of the day.....it goes on and on.
4) Get the kids to do an appreciation scrap book. Or if they are a bit older and like technology (like our three do) then give them your phone and tell them to get snap happy taking pictures of all the things they love on your family walk, around the house, out of their bedroom window, - you will be amazed at the beauty and happiness a child sees through their eyes. (I once got 436 shots of a blue and yellow trainer on my Iphone because Jacob thought they were super cool).
5) Express your thanks through service to others - it might be donating your time, your un-played with toys, your money, your skills, but giving something that would otherwise be of value to you gives children a great feel good factor. I love this pay it forward ideal. We have a Secret Santa who leaves potatoes, carrots, brussell sprouts and onions on our door step every Christmas. For the first year I wracked my brain trying to figure out who it was who made my Christmas with such a simple but generous gesture - then I realised it didn't matter who it was that did it - it mattered that I paid it forward. Now every year we select someone and under ninja like cover (great fun) we leave them a gift on their doorstep. It could be anything from warm slippers to a bottle of booze - the point is - we do it in secret and it makes us feel amazing and I know it will be paid forward thousands of time without any expectation of compensation.
6) Do something nice for the world, pets, animals, wildlife. Cook peanut butter balls for the birds, make a hedgehog feeding station, or crossing tunnel. Or you could just talk about the importance of recycling!!
7) Make a blessing table cloth or wall - we have a blackboard painted on our kitchen wall and the kids love writing messages on it. You can do this or use a white table cloth and get the kids to write the things they love and are thankful for on it. Every so often get it out and serve a fun dinner on it. Get them to sign their names and dates on it as they add to it. You can also ask visitors to do the same.
Have a great day everyone. LJ
Emotional regulation is the skill we learn to manage the occurrence, intensity and expression of our emotions.
The first step in regulating is being aware of the emotion we are feeling. Many children don't learn this skill, especially in these modern times when we are more disconnected than ever from our children's emotions, which are often played out and learned in their interactions with TV, gaming and social media. Their emotional vocabulary is becoming more and more limited and this poses a serious challenge for their ability to properly recognise what they are feeling and then managing it.
Emotional regulation is the foundation skill required to be able to then develop emotional intelligence in our children. Emotional Intelligence is the skill of being able to recognise in others their feelings and emotions and use that knowledge to think, problem solve, behave towards others and be in relationship with them.
Failure to be able to regulate emotions can create difficult behaviour in children such as anger, aggression, and anxiety leading to acting out (towards others) or acting in (towards self) behaviours.
Brene Brown points out that it is impossible to give a child what you have not got yourself so being able to regulate and manage your emotions is key for children to learn this by observing you.
She goes on to say that the job of parenting is not about "knowing it all" and teaching your children what to do. It is about being with them in their struggle, feeling with them, talking to them about their feelings and emotions, naming them, and confirming for them that they are real and normal, and helping them to build skills to problem solve these for themselves, sometimes even to just build the resilience of being able to tolerate the painful feelings. Feelings and emotions, once named and no longer kept secret and silent, lose their power to shame us. And it is shame that is the most detrimental emotion of all.
Shame. Do you have it? Here's the thing. We all do. Some of us deal with it better than others, yes, some of us are more aware of it when we experience it and process and recover from it more quickly or more whole-heartedly. But we all experience it. It does not discriminate between those who have money and those who don't, between race, religion or gender, between young or old or educated or not. It is experienced by us all, and often on a daily basis. So what is it? How does it affect us and what can we do about it?
Shame is the most base and powerful emotion we experience when something goes wrong in our lives. It has a powerful impact on our self esteem and our self confidence.
It is usually experienced in response to an event that presents evidence that we are "not good enough." These events can be anything from someone hurting you deliberately, to the loss of a loved one or the ending of a significant relationship. The message we internalise is that we are "not good enough to be loved," "not good enough to be respected," "not good enough to be protected," "not good enough to be prioritised."
The variety of ways in which shame can present in our lives as multiple, minor everyday events, or one off, major, life-changing events, mean that we cannot avoid experiencing shame. All of us. Even well adjusted adults, teachers, parents - me and you. They can be experienced at home within our families, in the community with our peers, and in school.
Take a moment to think about the last time someone communicated to you, either with their words or their behaviour that you "were not good enough." It might have been someone tailgating you on the way to work and you felt unsafe, it may have been harsh words spoken to you by your partner and you felt unloved, or it may have been someone using the last of the milk this morning, and you felt unimportant. In all of these examples, you felt "not good enough" to be protected, loved, valued.
As a result of this you will have presented a shame behaviour. It may have been very subtle or it may have been quite extreme. Shame behaviour or responses are an attempt to seek relief from the discomfort of feeling "not good enough" by behaving in one of the following four ways - what we call shame responses.
1) Denial or Avoiding, (with the purpose of not confronting the shame feeling and replacing it temporarily with another feeling)
2) Withdrawing, (with the purpose of not having to deal with the public face of the shame you have experienced or the risk of someone finding our about your private shame)
3) Attacking others, (with the purpose of discharging negative internal feelings and transferring them out of you and onto someone else)
4) Attacking ourselves (with the purpose of punishing ourselves for being not enough).
Each of these shame responses can be exhibited singularly or in combination and they can present in a range from mild to extreme. Below are example of a mild and an extreme example for each.
To Deny or Avoiding Behaviours
A mild example might be to pour a large glass of wine and ask your partner to watch escapist drama on Netflix with you so you don't have to think about whatever has shamed you, whereas an extreme example would be to engage in a serious drinking binge, or to be involved in addiction or other life risking behaviours such as poly drug misuse, joy riding. Anything to switch the feeling of shame with another feeling of temporary excitement or pleasure.
A mild example might be to take a sickie from work or school, whereas the most extreme example is to withdraw from life, to feel so shamed by an experience or set of experiences that the need to withdraw permanently and irrevocably from feelings of any sort becomes preferable to living with the feelings of shame.
Attacking Others Behaviours
A mild example might be to swear at someone under your breath, through more serious behaviours like bullying or trolling on social media. More extreme examples would be to seriously assault someone, the most extreme of all of course being to kill another person or living animal.
Attacking Self Behaviours
A mild example of attacking self would be the negative self talk, sometimes spoke aloud, sometimes just a voice in your head that says "You're rubbish at this," "You'll never get that job - don't even both applying" or "look at how fat you are" through to more extreme examples such as self harm.
Recovery from Shame Experiences - Time and Perspective
Time and Perspective are two things that assist us to recover from these shame behaviours.
Having the time to process, and recover from one shame experience before another is anticipated is crucial. This is why children sometimes have extreme reactions to minor disappointments or upsets, because they have experienced a layering of shame events and have had no time to recover from one before the next has arrived. Then when someone scratches the surface there is a gush of shame responses that come out in response to all those which have not yet been recovered. Helping children (and yourself) to build in time to process shame feelings is a fundamental self care strategy.
Being able to gain perspective is equally crucial. This is usually done in communion with others as perspective requires you to get outside of yourself and see this from another person's view point. Therefore strong and trustworthy social networks are fundamental in assisting individuals to see that there are different ways of thinking about an event that happened to you other than that you were "not worthy" of love, protection, thought, help etc.
So what can you do about it?
Shame survives in secrecy. It grows when you can't get perspective on it. So talk about it. Find a trusted other and tell them that you are feeling less than, not good enough, ignored, undervalued, not pretty enough, not clever enough, not protected, or any of the other shame feelings you have. Talking about that feeling carves out the time and space that you need to start processing it, to start measuring the evidence against the reality. And doing it with trusted others allows you to get the perspective that your own negative self talk won't let you have. And if you see someone else struggling with shame, help them to carve the space and time out in their relationship with you to talk about the feelings of not being enough, and help them to gain perspective by testing the evidence with them.
Shame has huge implications for individuals ability to meet their potential, to achieve in both your professional and personal life and so it merits thinking about what your pattern of behaviour is when you experience shame and how you process it, whether you carve out time and space for perspective. If you want to know more about shame, and how it impacts on a child's ability to learn and reach their potential, then reach out for a conversation about our restorative workshops and online training at email@example.com
Ever felt like your child has just unloaded a full artillery of bullets on your head just because you ran out of ketchup? Has it left you reeling? Bewildered? At a total loss as to what to do, say or feel?
Developing emotional intelligence in children can be an overwhelming and daunting journey. But so crucial in creating well adapted, strong and capable children.
Here are 4 first steps to begin your journey.
It can be so hard to live in the knowledge that you can’t “do” anything about the pain, struggle or challenge that your child is in. But what if you consider that your job is not to protect them from that pain, struggle or challenge, rather your job is to help them cope with them gain perspective, tolerate their feelings and realise they will survive the big emotions they are currently experiencing. What if you began to realise that the most valuable “do” is to empathise with what they are experiencing. Just being understood helps small (and big) humans let go of troubling emotions. If the reaction seems out of proportion the remember we all bottle up big feelings until we are in a safe enough place to let them go. And if you are that safe haven, it can feel pretty hostile when those feelings are all focused in your direction at once.
Empathising doesn’t mean you have to agree with your child, but you do have to appreciate the situation from their side. They may have to toe your line when it comes to house rules, but they are still entitled to have feelings about your rules. As long as they aren’t breaking any other house rules such as damaging stuff or physically harming people then let them express their feelings. And remember, what you experience as anger is always underpinned by a real emotion - for example hurt, disappointment, sadness, fear or frustration.
Why this encourages emotional intelligence:
* Feeling understood helps the child to feel soothes. Over time that neural pathway you are teaching them to strengthen is what they will use to soothe themselves as they get older.
* Children develop empathy by experiencing it from others.
* Helping your child to think about their experiences and what happened that they feel this way about it, teaches them to connect triggers, to feelings, to behaviours. Being able to name the feeling allows them to express it which externalises it so they don’t have to bottle it up internally like a pressure cooker.
2) Allow expression
Don’t dismiss, trivialise or shame your child’s feelings. “Big boys don’t cry” or “shhh don’t make a fuss” are stifling responses to a child’s way to express their emotions.
Firstly it shames them, which has a very destructive impact on their self identity, and secondly it encourages them to deny the validity of their feelings. For more on this check out our training on Restorative Practices in particular the process of shame, unresolved shame and the impact on growth mindsets.
Just think how important it is in today’s environment of increasing suicidal ideation in children, that we don’t prevent our children from getting big emotions out and not bottling them in until they can no longer cope. Repressed feelings don't fade away, like feelings that have been freely expressed do. Instead
they spill out uncontrollably, and unexpectedly when a child suddenly hits another child, starts to have nightmares or develops anxious behavioural patterns.
By the same token think about the message we are sending to a child who is feeling scared of a predatory adult if we teach them “not to make a fuss”. Children, especially young children aren’t able to differentiate between what is something you should make a fuss about and something they shouldn’t.
Instead, teach that the full range of feelings is understandable and part of being human, even while some actions must be limited.
Why this encourages emotional intelligence:
* Your tolerance of your child’s emotions helps your child to tolerate their own emotions too. This tolerance is what enables us to sit with the emotions until they can accept them and then move on. This is emotional regulation.
* Your acceptance enables your child to realise that emotions are not shameful or bad, and that they can with time and support change, reduce or become less acute. They also learn that everyone has difficult feelings and even the not nice parts of our personalities do not make us bad, just human.
3) Listen to your child’s feelings.
All behaviour is communication and if you don’t listen to and reflect the child’s feelings back to them, they will continue to express their feelings in every escalated ways until the message they are trying to communicate lands and you get it.
Once they feel they’ve been heard, they will let them go and get on with their life. This means creating an environment in which your child feels you are genuinely present and listening to them. So put the phone away, turn the TV off, ask the question.
Why this encourages emotional intelligence:
* The nature of normal human emotions is to flow through us, engulf us, and then ebb away. When we deny them they get stuck inside us. Children are not yet skilled in handling their strong emotions, so they try to avoid them until they feel safe enough to experience them.
* When we help our children feel safe enough to feel and express their emotions, we not only heal their little brains and bodies, but we also help them trust their own emotional capabilities so that they can handle bigger stuff like social and intimate relationships as they get older without destructive tantrums or repression.
4) Teach problem solving
Emotions are messages to communicate needs and wants. Teach your child to tolerate the emotions so they can express their needs and wants while realising they may not have them all met all of the time, and once they aren’t in the grip of intense emotion anymore, to problem-solve and take action if necessary.
Most of the time, once the child feels their emotions are understood and accepted, they quieten and lose their intensity. This creates space for problem solving.
Sometimes, kids can do this themselves. Sometimes, they need your help to formulate possible options. Resist giving them the answers unless they ask or there is an immediate safety issue as this communicates that you believe they are incapable of handling it themselves and this will create a fixed
mindset of “can / can’t” instead of a growth mindset of “can’t yet.”
Why this encourages emotional intelligence:
* Children need to practice how to find constructive solutions to problems and that means we have to model it for them and allow them the space to struggle.
* Research shows that simply empathising with our kids is not enough because they still feel at sea with their emotions. Teaching them to respect their feelings as alerts about things they need to do differently in their lives increases their personal power to influence and change their experiences. This self efficacy is crucial in children feeling capable, confident and empowered.
My favourite film is "It's a Wonderful Life." I think the story of how Clarence (the Angel for those who haven't seen it) shows George (the suicidal hero) how many lives he had touched and what those lives might have been like had he not been there to touch them. Whilst a wildly fantastical film, there is so much truth in the lesson that "you don't always know the impact you have on others." Sometimes you will be lucky enough to find out in your lifetime. Sometimes you won't and it will be your children or grandchild that hear the stories of the impact you made. All you can do is make sure that whatever you do in this world, you try as best you can to make a good impact on those around you.
My high school was an excellent school. The teachers were genuinely interested in children and I have more that one memory as a young teenager of teachers who reached out to sensitively support children who were struggling. I am immensely proud that one of those teachers who is thought of so highly is my own dad. I am also so glad that he is still with us to hear the gratitude for the impact he had on others. Social media is not all bad!!
This morning I woke to a conversation in which I was tagged in Facebook. It lifted my spirits and I immediately reached out to Bobbie to ask if I could share. This is what Bobbie had to say:
..."At Ballycastle High I was in Glendun and our house colour was yellow. I never did Physical Ed, I managed to get out of it. So in first year I would spend most of my time in the greenhouse at the back of Mr Saywers (sic) class. He was very good to me and did his best to teach me some common sense and initiative. I learnt a lot there and I would like to say thank you to him for going the extra mile with me and having the patience and determination that he had to reach out to me and give me the confidence and strength to redefine myself rather than being defined by my illness....he taught me to have some initiative and in all honestly when I think back it was much more worthwhile I didn't do PE and much better for me that I was in the greenhouse instead....I really appreciate everything he did for me...he also taught me to have respect for others." Bobbie Gibson.
I am immensely proud of the teacher my dad was (and still is to my son - and well - also me). I am thankful that he gets to hear how he touched the lives of others.
Tell me - which teacher made the biggest impact on you and how?
Ever want to rub out and start again? None of us are perfect. Quite the opposite. So here’s me, delivering workshops on parenting and managing conflict better with your kids and giving choices and meeting needs and showing compassion, and having patience and breathing and.... yep - not perfect!
I do not always get it right. I am not always nailing it. Sometimes I just haven’t got my plastic pants and superhero cape handy. This day at the end of last year was one of those days.
Little did I know when I rolled over and kissed my partner goodbye as he left for a two day business trip what awaited me. I thought I was organised. I thought I was prepared. But sometimes life just kicks you up the ass, pokes you in the eye and then laughs in your face.
Let me paint the picture. Traffic on the way to work - arrived late. Now just to let you in on a secret - my pet peeve is lateness - I hate it. Strong word hate - but I do. Anyway, it was one of those crazy day's when I didn't look after myself very well. I didn’t stop to pee, to have a drink of water, I barely registered inhaling my lunch, and I left work late. I picked my son, Jacob up from after school - late. (Did I mention my pet peeve?)
I got home to discover he hadn’t finished his homework at after school and now I'm starting to feel more than a little stressy!! Started to finish his home work with him whilst trying to get dinner cooked and one eye on the clock to get him out to Judo on time.
He was struggling with homework, overwhelmed and confused and I was too focused on timescales and not being late so I missed the cue and he lost it and ripped up the dictionary. (Not any old dictionary - the Mrs Wordsmith, beautifully illustrated, cost a fortune, dictionary).
I lost it. I shouted. He screamed. I slammed the dictionary on the table. He started to cry, I burst into tears, he howled, I howled, and somewhere in the middle of all this he knocked over the juice on the table - all over his homework which we had almost completed, and then ran through the puddle and sticky footprints across the kitchen and up the hall.
Because I was under pressure and made my priorities his. Who cared if we were 5 minutes late for Judo? Me. Who cared if we had to do homework when we came back from Judo. Me. Who cared if the home work book was a bit sticky. Me. Not him. Me. And it’s not that they aren’t important things. It’s that they weren’t the most important thing right then.
Putting my arms around him and saying “homework sucks, but I can help you” was important to him. Eating his dinner without rushing was important to him. Finding the word in the dictionary instead of a pile of illustrated pictures was important to him. Going to Judo and worrying about homework later was important to him. And nowhere did our priorities meet in the middle.
I ruptured our relationship that evening. But, and there is always a but. I also repaired it. He was so angry at me for not seeing him. And I was so angry that he ripped up the book that I loved (and paid a fortune for!) But I was the adult.
“I’m sorry I lost my temper and shouted Jacob, I said. "It was wrong of me, I should have noticed how hard you were finding homework and not rushed you. I’m so sorry I upset you and shouted.”
“It’s ok”, he said “I’m sorry I ripped the lovely book - I was so frustrated and I tried to tell you”
“I know, I’m sorry I didn’t hear you,” I replied.
“I love you mum” he said.
I burst into tears again. Some days suck but even when you rupture, you can still repair.
I was invited back to a school that I delivered restorative training to, to observe how they were using the principles and values in practice and to consult on developing their skills further. It was an exciting time. But it was also a little nerve wracking if I'm honest. As a trainer, I know that what I deliver works when it is put into practice. But once I have delivered the knowledge and skills to teachers, I have no control over whether they apply the principles as they should be (and as many media articles have had great pleasure in reporting, when the practice is delivered poorly the outcomes are not favourable!)
The class was a primary 2 class - so the children were between 5 and 6 years old. This is an age which teachers who attend my training often tell me "children won't get it." But oh my goodness - they really do get it when you have teachers like this one.
I had been there for about 40 mins, the children had finally stopped being distracted by me and had been directed to complete work at their desks while the teacher listened to a small group of children reading at the front of the class. After a few minutes the noise levels in the class started to rise. The teacher was distracted and "shushed" the class a few times. I was interested... I could see the teacher's frustration beginning to peak. She got up, and walked to the front of class. What she did next was the loveliest example of restorative classroom management I had seen in a long time.
"Boys and Girls" she said. "I have a problem, can you put on your super sleuth hats and circle up?"
Immediately, as if they had been primed for this moment, all the children, pulled their chairs into a (haphazard) semi circle and (get this.... cutest thing ever), pulled on imaginary super sleuth hats.
"My problem", she said, "is I really need to hear the children at the front reading, but the noise level in the class is too high. I'd love your help - any ideas how you can help me solve my problem?" The kids were loving this.
Kid: "We could put our fingers on our lips and shush"
Teacher: "That's a good idea - I like that"
Kid: "We could put our heads down and go to sleep" (I love this kid)
Teacher: "A good idea but I also need you to do the work that I set for you."
Kid: "We could whisper to each other"
Teacher: "Another great idea"
Teacher: These are great solutions - lets try them out - we can decide how well it worked after I've finished reading with the group at the front.
The class went back to work and the teacher went back to reading at the front. The noise levels subsided and periodically over the next 15 minutes they rose again only to be shushed by one of the children and to subside again.
I felt immensely proud of that teacher. She had taken all of the learning from the training and had genuinely put it into practical practice.
She used problem solving circles to
identify how the impact of the noise on her feelings was founded on her own needs, not the behaviour of others, (if that doesn't make sense - you need to come and do our training where I will explain the importance of recognising that your feelings come from your needs and not from what other people do to you),
empower the children to be part of the solution
hold the boundary when one of the child came up with a less than desirable solution
provide an opportunity for the children to review their solution and so turned a discipline moment into a learning moment.
If you would like to know more about how to engage the children in your school in restorative practice, if you would like to find a more peaceful and cooperative way to resolve issues in your classroom, the corridors, playground and beyond, or if you would simply like to see if working in this way would hold value for you, then check out our Introduction to Restorative Practices in Education Settings. We have an online course as our face to face courses are not currently running during the COVID-19 crisis.
Or contact me, Linda, on 07805093965. Stay safe.
When children are locked in conflict with each other often adults apportion blame and try to fix the problem by focusing on the person most at fault. This takes the power, the responsibility, and the accountability away from the children involved in the conflict - both the child who was hurt and the child who caused harm. Rarely are the two exclusive.
Conflict most often occurs when children feel treated unfairly and unjustly. It is their feeling that matters here. Storytelling allows children to transform injustice through imparting knowledge to a trusted other, being heard and validated, allowing them to reframe their hurt as something bad that happened to them not because of them.
Hearing the hurt of those in conflict is the starting point - it’s the “what happened?” of the restorative script. And it is hard, indeed sometimes not yet possible for a child to take responsibility for their actions when the hurt and injustice caused to them is not yet acknowledged.
If we support children to take responsibility by hearing their stories with an open mind, without judging or apportioning blame, and then step back and allow children to see that the solution to that conflict is within their gift to others they learn three very important things.
1) They learn they have control over their lives - they have choices to make or not make - this is empowerment.
2) They learn that guilt is simply a emotional recognition that they are better than their behaviour and it is something to embrace not fear. This is taking responsibility.
3) They learn they have the power to transform hurt they have caused into healing they have repaired. This is being accountable.
The starting point for this process is ALWAYS the shared story, not the apportioning of blame by someone not involved in the conflict.
First listen, then understand, then step back and support children to be their own solution.
If you were to be a best friend to yourself, what advice would you give you? About health, relationships, love and parenting? What advice would you give yourself about Self compassion and how to cultivate it?
Be kind in the world - but most importantly, be kind to yourself.
You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.
Why did you spill the coffee? "Because someone bumped into me!!!" Wrong answer.
You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It's easy to fake it, until you get rattled. So we have to ask ourselves... “what's in my cup?" When life gets tough, what spills over?
Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility? Anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?
Life provides the cup, YOU choose how to fill it. Today let's work towards filling our cups with gratitude, joy, words of affirmation; and kindness, gentleness and love for others.