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Switch Up Your Escalation Response with these 3 Tips

Want a quick win for supporting a student in crisis with a trauma informed lens? Want more behavior management strategies?

Here ya go!

These 3, super simple, tips below are as good as gold in behavior management. Instead of getting caught up in the power struggle, feeling completely out of control, and getting thrown off your game by sensory and behavioral overload, I want you to switch up the usual response to student dysregulation.

Remember that a trauma supportive approach looks different for each student, but the principles and foundation are always the same!

I very rarely say something is full-proof in trauma informed education because, ya know, humans aren’t machines and kids with trauma are extremely complex.

Yet, these 3 tips hold true time and time again as a behavior management strategy.

If you consistently show up for your students with this mindset and strategy, you’re bound to see shorter escalations and/or reduction of escalations.

1. Confirm Safety

It’s not about just de-escalating a dysregulated student. It’s more important to work through the dysregulated, fear-based state through targeted safety supports.

That means narrating safety, providing clear expectations, reminding of environmental supports, and verbal and non-verbal communication.

2. Participate in Co-regulation

Engage in de-escalation techniques with the student. Make sure you’re modeling the expectation, but also breaking down that barrier.

Don’t make comments or threaten the student by saying they are doing something wrong (even if, in fact, they are not meeting the expectation) and you’re in charge.

Get off the control train and dive into whatever coping strategies you, or your student, have decided to try.

3. Move On!

This one is equal parts student and teacher targeted! And it’s going to be more difficult for the teacher, than the student!

We want to make sure we’re holding onto the non-negotiable expectation (i.e. they pick up the things they’ve thrown, or apologize for being disrespectful). However, the student may not be ready for that just yet. It’s important to get back into the routine as soon as the student is ready, without harping on the incident.

You can ask the student, “would you like to clean up now or later?” If they choose now, awesome. If they choose later, totally okay! The goal is that they repair the damage done and feel safe while doing so. Giving the student this option, allows them to take back some control after, what is generally, an anxiety-ridden experience that could result in feelings of shame.

Don’t worry, you’re still maintaining your non-negotiables and high level of expectations for your students, you’re just being flexible on when it happens.

Side note, repairing damage done is a perfectly fine way to move on. Make it more a matter of fact than a judgement of their actions, though. Ensure the student understands your relationship with them does not change because of poor choices they’ve made. Students must practice tapping into their emotional intelligence at this stage and help you find a solution, and a logical way to move on.

Wrap it Up

Instead of judging the behavior, assigning personal meaning to it, or simply reacting to it, try to lean into the vulnerability of the moment. Come to the situation with the strategies above and make them a natural part of your behavior management strategies.

High stress situations are never fun, and can lead to poor choices on both the student and teachers end.

Our goal as trauma informed educators is to mitigate any additional trauma in the educational setting.

Connect with your students DURING moments of dysregulation, not just before!

Show up for them in ways they haven’t seen before.

Get creative in your approach, but always remember to:

  1. Affirm safety

  2. Co-regulate

  3. Move on

Students with trauma don’t need you placing guilt or shame on them while they’re learning to understand their responses.

If you found this helpful, make sure you grab my Trauma Supportive Checklist which helps you get clear on how supportive your classroom is right now, while providing you with next steps (without the overwhelm!).

Grab it here!

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