Mrs. Brice's Bulldog Buddies
School Counseling Newsletter
May 11, 2020
Happy Belated Mother's Day! I hope you all had a beautiful day with your family! As promised, this week we will continue talking about anger. We will shift our focus to the aftermath of the anger outburst. What happens now? How can you and your child move on? Should your child have a consequence for her actions? Keep reading for answers to these questions.
I am currently participating in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) about school discipline and moving toward a restorative rather than punitive model. Some of the tips we've learned so far can be helpful when working through anger outbursts especially because they often include or are intertwined with some type of inappropriate behavior. A restorative approach is also beneficial when dealing with emotional outbursts because punitive approaches can lead children to believe that the feeling was wrong. We want children to understand that the feeling was perfectly normal but it is the behavior choice that was wrong.
In the book, Hacking School Discipline by Nathan Maynard and Brad Weinstein, the authors discuss "repairing the harm". This is an opportunity for your child to take responsibility for her behavior. In order to repair the harm, your child will identify the problem, name anyone affected by the problem and determine how to fix the problem. The overall goal is to not only have your child accept responsibility but also develop empathy for others affected by her behavior. As your child continues to develop responsibility and empathy, she will be more likely to think twice before she reacts in future emotional incidents. Remember, this is not a quick fix. It takes time to develop these skills so be flexible and supportive and try not to expect perfection.
Once everyone is calm and ready, it is time to “repair the harm”. The first step is to identify the problem. Talk with your child about what happened. Encourage her to describe how she was feeling and work together to identify the problem. There may be more than one problem to identify. Problem 1: What was making her feel angry? Problem 2: What happened as a result of her anger? For example, she was angry because she didn’t understand her Math homework. She threw her books, homework and pencils on the floor.
The next step is to have your child name anyone who was affected by her behavior. Of course the behavior affected her but there are likely other people in the home who were affected as well. Encourage her to identify who was affected and how others were affected. For example, a sibling was not able to focus on his homework as a result of her outburst. Another example may be that mom or dad had to stop cooking dinner because of the outburst. This step allows your child to develop empathy. She is putting herself in others’ shoes by thinking and talking about how her behavior affected others around her.
The third step in “repairing the harm” is to fix the problem. This is where the consequence comes in. The consequence should be restorative rather than punitive. It is not a punishment: grounding, loss of item/privilege, etc. Instead, your child’s consequence should include an opportunity to repair the harm that was done. To continue using the example from above, we now know that the little girl was angry about her homework so she threw her homework materials/tools on the floor. We also know that she disrupted her parent who was cooking dinner and she distracted her brother who was doing his homework. Some examples of restorative consequences are: apologize to anyone affected, pick up the materials that were thrown, help to finish cooking dinner (if possible). It’s best if your child comes up with these consequences on her own but if she’s struggling, you can help her with ideas.
Keep in mind that talking about the incident can be difficult for your child (and maybe you too). She must now relive what just happened and she may be feeling embarrassed, ashamed or even afraid that she is in trouble. If talking about it is difficult for you and/or your child, you can encourage her to write about the incident or draw a picture. You can also use a behavior reflection form or a think sheet. You and your child can complete this together or she can complete it independently and share with you when she’s done. See the file below for a printable Think Sheet.
It may seem daunting or time-consuming, but working through these incidents with your child has several benefits. First, it reassures your child that you are there to support her no matter what. Remember, your child does not want to feel this way and she does not want to have these behaviors. She has a need that she wants/needs met and she is not fully equipped yet to communicate that need. Second, you are helping your child developing her sense of responsibility for herself and her actions. By reflecting on the incident, she has to own the choice and repair the harm before anyone can move on. Third, she is building empathy. The ability to view someone else's perspective is tricky for kids but these behavior reflections allow her to build those skills. Having empathy and knowing that she will be held responsible for her choices, should encourage her to stop and think before she reacts to her angry feelings in the future.
The final step is to move on. Phew! I bet you couldn't wait for this step! When your child apologizes, accept her apology. When she cleans up the mess that was made, praise her. After you've reflected on what happened and the harm has been repaired, be like Elsa and LET IT GO! It's over and done with and there is no need to continue to harp on the incident. Communicate to your child that you are moving on and provide some reassurance or encouragement. You might say, "OK, we're going to let all this go! I'm proud of you for working this out and I love you. Fresh start begins now."