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When to physically intervene

  • 1.  When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-13-2019 07:25 AM
    Greetings all, I'm posting today with a very specific question. What level of physical intervention do you use when a child who you are working with loses control? And by losing control, I mean has a history of running away, grabbing items and throwing them dangerously, hitting others, spitting at others, even biting others. Of course we are working with this child and the family to discover what are the underlying causes of their overload and give them more functional ways of dealing with stress. That said, again, I'm asking what does it look like when you are dealing with a child like this? Are you picking them up and moving to a safe space? What if they are hitting you and spitting at you as you move them? What if when you put them down they try to run away again? Thanks for your input.

    James Mitchell
    Silver Spring Nursery School
    Takoma Park MD

  • 2.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-13-2019 11:11 AM
    Hello James,

    We have experienced this many times in our center over the past couple of years with 4yr. old students. Most of the time, these children are male, but we have had some females.  These children usually had not received a three year old experience with us, where we focus on mostly social emotional development extrinsically. We have found that there are many reasons for there behavior and in seeking to assist them process have made some mistakes. But what has worked over time, is first to learn what frustrates the child by teachers keeping notes on the scenarios that occurred prior to their episodes (as I like to call it.)  If this is done, the child can be redirected before their breakdown. If they do breakdown, we are guided to remove them from the environment to an more secluded safe area. In this scenario, we would let them get their anger out. My words to the child usually is, when you are ready to talk, I am ready to listen.  Periodically, I would ask if they are ready yet. (when I see that they are calming down and do not know how to transition). Voice is always calm and patient. I would usually tell them to just come to me when they are ready. (I sit in a place where I can be seen and heard by others.) The child calms and generally comes. I would acknowledge their feelings expressed and ask if they could tell me what made them so angry. Then talk about other means of expression that are more acceptable. (classroom rules)  Generally, you want them to move to a place of regulating themselves and hopefully independently moving themselves away from things that upset them.(Hard task. Some adult do not have this skill)  Our rooms have a safe place children can go when they do not want to be bothered or are feeling upset. "Cozy Area." We have props to assist with managing feelings, " Tucker Turtle."  Children will use props to help express what they can not put in words. It is not easy, but you have to remove them from areas that can hurt others and themselves. We never punish the child for having feelings, but we do tell them that what they did is unacceptable with giving them a more acceptable way. If the child has made a mess in the midst of their anger, they become apart of the clean up when they become calm.

    Lynn Kitchings
    Director of Early Care
    YMCA of Paterson
    Paterson NJ

  • 3.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-14-2019 12:00 PM
    Thank you for this reply and post! I work as a nanny with a 4 year old who is struggling to learn this type of regulation and will hit me or his younger sister when upset. His mom and I have created a space for him to go when upset so he's not hurting anyone but getting him there before the damage is done isn't happening. I try to say "tell me in words" and "we don't hit, hitting hurts" and I find myself picking up his little sister and simply moving away from him until he is more calm. Often after the fact when he has calmed down I am able to validate and describe his feelings but he often turns away when I try to talk to him about hitting being unacceptable and invite him to identify other ways to handle his big feelings. Sometimes he is able to redirect himself to a less harmful expression in the moment and I am often able to head off the whole thing by assisting with interactions around sharing toys and taking turns, but sometimes when he's tired or there are other stressors he gets upset way more quickly and it seems to come out of nowhere. His mom hosts regular family meetings and "what to do when mad" has been a topic with a list of acceptable behaviors that he helped come up with but those aren't being practiced. I haven't been able to reinforce that list in the moment because it takes everything I have not to lose my cool. Any other suggestions or ideas are welcome!

    Tracy Harrison
    Seattle WA

  • 4.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-15-2019 06:15 AM
    It is also important to know young children do not have the perspective of others, so we have to show them and tell them how their actions (hitting) makes others feel. They don't understand what their actions do to others.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 5.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-15-2019 06:59 PM
    Oh, how my heart hurts for you if you are dealing with this situation. Within months of arriving at a new child care center I had a three-year-old little guy who had some serious anger issues. Foul language, SCREAMING, hitting, kicking, slapping, spitting, throwing things and running away from anyone who tried to restrain him. Everyone and everything was fair game - other children, adults, toys, furniture, doors. The only thing that even remotely worked was for me to try to catch him before he blew up so that I could hug him and tell him that I loved him. I would hold him and talk to him in a low voice, telling him he was safe and that I loved him. However, his peace would last for only a short time before he would explode again. It broke my heart when his family denied there was anything wrong - that he was acting like a typical three-year-old. We showed them video of his aggressive behavior and they still insisted he never behaved that way at home. We conferenced with them, provided them with mental health and behavioral therapy resources. It was all in vain. The little guy ended up being excused from our center.  I know that behavior therapy can do wonders for young children, but it involves the family in the therapy as well; parents who are already in denial often dismiss that they, too, need to participate in the therapy in order to help their child through the process.  Behavior therapy is my personal first choice for families - no medications, just great talk and play therapy that provide everyone with strategies for managing the challenging behavior.

    I am not sure if I have actually provided you with any helpful information, but at least I hope you know you're not alone.

    Jill Welch
    Lead Teacher
    Tottenberry's Private School
    Pearland TX

  • 6.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-16-2019 08:19 AM
    Hi Jill,
    When to physically intervene? My rule is when someone is in danger! Otherwise try to coax the child into a safe place.
    When a child is in rage, it is helpful to have him use his legs to release all that pent up energy.
    If a child is angry, he need to feel safe and breathe.
    But most of all, you need a plan! A plan that involves the child and pictures, lots of them! You need to show  her alternatives to her anger/rage.
    There is a book that helped me a lot and might help you: "Lost at School"
    but what has really helped is Conscious Discipline.
    Check them out. I am sure they will be helpful.
    I wish you well!

    Cecilia Escalante

  • 7.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-16-2019 10:42 AM
    Thanks Cecilia. Great guidance.

    Lynn Kitchings
    Director of Early Care
    YMCA of Paterson
    Paterson NJ

  • 8.  RE: When to physically intervene

    Posted 09-16-2019 09:08 PM
    Wow, such excellent responses for a not uncommon scenario.
    Here is one more perspective:  often this rage is a result of sensory processing overload, which can be a result of PTSD or Sensory Processing Disorder, or autism, or not having any boundaries put in place at home, but I honestly think the latter is really rare when we are talking about that level of rage.
    The strategies that Lynn shared all fit in to the idea of figuring out what a child's sensory triggers are, and figuring out how to keep the classroom as sensory friendly as possible.  That is the one thing that I have found helpful in scenarios like what Jill mentioned, when the parents are not willing to be part of the picture.  While we cannot help too much if the parents are not helping at home as well, at least at school we can provide sensory safety for these little ones.
    Always makes my heart break to see a child with so much overload.

    Joanie Calem
    Columbus OH