It is easy to grasp a difference between the de-escalation and ignoring challenging behaviours when we introduce a notion of intention. If we were to read mind of a person who ignores that could sound as follows: “Oh my God, I have no a bloody clue what to do now. He is walking all over the furniture again and winds his sister up. I am sooo tired. Can’t he just be nice. I gave him those trainers he wanted. Let’s try pretending that I did not notice what he’s doing. No it won’t work he is too loud. OK, let me just walk away. Oh dear, he is following me.- Leave me in peace for 5 minutes. Why can’t you just go to your room and calm down”.
You may feel really upset by now. The child may feel very un-contained. He might have gone up a notch and is in a full swing tantrum. You may be experiencing this painful sensation in your chest which tells you that you are scared because you don’t really see how you could help the situation. A voice in your head tells you that you should though – “you are the parent, aren’t you”. Each episode of that kind is like a carpet bombing. You may congratulate yourself that you managed to survive yet another attack but you do not have any energy left to plan how to bringing lasting peace. It is like being constantly in a flight or fight mode. So exhausting.
If a person is de-escalating it may sound as follows: “He is winding his sister up again – I can hear that. I can feel that I am so close to shouting at him at the top of my voice – How many times do I have to tell you not to…! If I shout it he will shout back and hit his sister and then I will lose it totally. I am making a conscious decision to refrain myself from saying/showing anything which increases the chance of it. I will make an effort to calm down (go out, stay in, drink tea whatever works for you) and when I am completely cool and she/he is calmer I will bring it up. I need to focus on dealing with the main issue and not get involved in a shouting match with an 11 year old!
I do not need to have the last word now. I do not need to coerce her/him to apologise, confess, admit guilt, repent, promise improvement RIGHT NOW. As long as they do not hit each other I can wait to calm down. Then I will go to his room to let him know that we would be having a conversation later on. I am taking responsibility now for keeping my cool, preserving my dignity, showing an example how to control emotions and I will come back to the problem at hand when the fire is extinguished”.
On a video tape the de-escalation and ignoring could look exactly the same. However those actions are done from two different positions– one from the place of fear and confusion about what to do. The other one from the place of choice, confidence and knowing what is the next step of the process.
The intention behind a reward is significantly different from the intention behind a reconciliation gesture. The former is about conditioning a child to behave well because she gets something for it. A wonderful tool as long as it works. However, you know that it stopped working when you find yourself thinking “If I give her this laptop she should be happy and should be nice in return and should do what I want from her in return, shouldn’t she?” But what if you cannot give her this laptop? Or what if she says “Just a laptop? I want an iPad and the laptop and then I will do my homework”.
The connection between the reward and the child’s behaviour is very clear and direct. Behaviours considered good are being reinforced by the reward. Yet, at times children stop behaving in a positive way so we cannot reward them. You may also feel so hurt by their negative behaviours that you do not notice their good actions so you do not use opportunities to reward them. You can see how relying solely on rewards may become counterproductive.
The intention behind the reconciliation gesture is an expression of love you have for the child, no matter how outrages his behaviour right now is. Doing the reconciliation requires that you perform a tiny little gestures towards a child without expecting any gratitude or acknowledgment. Sounds saintly? It is easier than it seems.
Basically the reconciliation is not connected with the child’s actions at all. In the midst of the worst moments when he seems to be getting out of his way to misbehave, you continue with your gestures. Because your intention is not to reinforce the behaviour but to express your love. This is called the unconditional love.
The intention is the key. Just to clarify – performing the reconciliation gestures is carried out with the first step – de-escalation and the next one – disciplining. I am not saying – do your power flower love ONLY. If you did just that it would be ineffective but also frankly speaking foolish. As nurturing without disciplining is sheer sentimentalism so the disciplining without nurturing is pure cruelty (it is a famous quote but I cannot recall who said that).
The intention behind disciplining is different to the intention behind punishing. Often the punishing is accompanied by anger, frustration, helplessness, fear, shame and the need to vent one’s emotions. Often, if we are perfectly honest the punishment is about revenge, power struggle etc. On the other hand, if it works it works. I am not advocating for the punishments to be banished. Not at all. However when a relationship is strained punishments are rarely effective (of course, the question is what effect we wanted to achieve – coerce or lead by example). How many times I have heard parent saying “I stripped his room bare. He has nothing in it anymore. I have no more things to take away from him…on top of that he says he doesn’t care”. Now what?
The intention behind the NVR disciplining is – e.g. “we love you and care about you AND your behaviour towards us will no longer be tolerated. We will do whatever we can to help you to learn how to treat others with respect and dignity. We share our troubles with your teachers, aunty Emma and granddad so they could help us all to find the best solutions too. We promise to be respectful and behave in the dignify way towards you. We are not intending to control you. We do this because this is our job as parents. We love you”. Full stop.
The intention is to lead by example.
I know that some of you may be intrigued by the above concepts and eager to try out those three steps – kind of “see how it goes”. Some may be not.
Bear with me and remember that if you are new to NVR, just give yourself time to digest information you took in.
Let me make a confession – I am very new to blogging or any form of online visibility. For sure, the article is not perfect. But “start now improve later” is my motto. Please, do start reading about NVR. With time you may decide to try some little ideas out. Just start by opening your mind to it. Let’s allow space for “the improving” to unfold. You can always decide to start something different and improve, later.