“This child is a monster,” “He gets into everything” or “She is such a challenge.” Words heard when those working with children become overwhelmed.
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a rut about how we view situations, people or children. Sometimes it’s hard to change our perspective. An important rule to remember is that whatever we look for is what we will find. If a child has challenging behaviors and that is what we focus on, then that is all we will see in that child.
Have you heard the saying, “long enough and loud enough and it will be?” Referring to the power in the words we use with children. If we constantly tell them they are bad, challenging or trouble—that is what they will become.
When it comes to children, I hope that our common goal is success ~ helping them become the best they can be and encouraging them for who they are. As all-important team members for children, it’s our job to offer support and maintain our emotional control.
A terrific way to remain calm in a frustrating situation is by reframing. Reframing is a communication tool that was first used in family therapy. A frame, or frame of reference is a set of unquestioned beliefs, values and so on that we use when inferring meaning. If any part of that frame is changed (reframing), then the meaning that is inferred can change.
You take an experience and look at it in a new light, one that fits the facts of the situation equally well, but eliminates judgment and negative emotions. It doesn’t eliminate the behavior, it just changes the way you interpret the behavior. When you change the meaning, you change the entire experience.
Reframing decreases stress and creates renewed energy. When I first met Danicka, I was trying to open a door for her and her friends to use a computer lab. I must have gotten too close for her comfort as she jumped at me, and hollered, “You ain’t got no business getting all up in my space.”
Months later when I got to meet Danicka again, and get to know her better, I could reframe our previous encounter as a defense mechanism. Danicka lived a life in which protecting herself and her space was critical. We quickly developed a mutual respect. Understanding behaviors in a new perspective empowers everyone involved!
Examples of reframing ~ changing words from strong, negative emotional ones, to positive, manageable ones are as follows:
•A really bad day ~ mildly low point in a wonderful life
•Pain ~ discomfort
•Threat ~ challenge
•Problem ~ opportunity
•Impossible ~ distant possibility
•Annoying ~ different
•Trouble ~ has needs
Page 2 of 2 - •Always argues ~ speaks her mind
•Stubborn ~ strong minded
•Aggressive ~ protecting ego or something else
•Blabber mouth ~ has a lot to say
Just saying the new words, changes the intensity of emotion and perhaps even offers a bit of sympathetic understanding. It really works, try it with true effort and see how it can make a difference!