" Children's seeking of emotional warmth is the very 'driver' that pushes their foot down on the 'accelerator pedal' of their 'car of life' and which they undoubtedly 'steer' towards hopefully trusted others."
Dave Traxson, 2015.
If the function of children's sometimes challenging behaviour is to seek emotional warmth as I and many other child mental health professionals now believe and not just attention seeking, then why as do we as a society and particularly schools often give them the very opposite response to what they are striving to find?
"We know professionally and personally the pivotal importance of meaningful attachments and how they give children the security to explore a very challenging world."
COMMON PARENTAL OR SOCIETAL RESPONSES:
- "Sit on the naughty step." (ALONE)
- "Sit at the back of the class." (ALONE)
- "Go into the corridor."(ALONE)
- "Go to isolation." Now regularly used in schools (where you will sit in a cold sterile room they sit ALONE possibly for whole days)
- AND ultimately solitary confinement.( used with juveniles in the U.S. to 'protect' 16 year olds to 'protect' them in a Safeguarding sense from predatory inmates.
+ ALSO now all too frequently biochemical solitude with psychotropic drugs.
THE REAL DANGER IS THE PATHOLOGISATION OF SOLITUDE =
using solitude as a punishment which then conditions young people in later life to not perceive or realise the therapeutic benefits of solitude achieved for thousands of years by SOLITUDE using 'retreats' and meditation etc. etc.
We should not traumatise a child with punitive isolation or aversive solitude as each time they consider it or experience it in the future they may be retraumatised.
What should we be doing instead?
- Building any form of human to human therapeutic support / relationship.
- 'Human Bridge' relationships to help them cross their current river of stress.
- Starting with 'Special Minutes' with a carer, teaching assistant or 'behaviour buddy.'
- Tell them you 'love them' but not certain behaviours + consequences.
- 1:1 coaching or mentoring with an adult or peer.
- 'Incident Debriefs' including feelings for others.
- Therapeutic mentoring with someone they attach to.
- "Quality Time' with a trusted adult.
- A walk in the countryside with a trusted adult or peer tutor.
- Forest School strategies in a safe environment with a skilled leader.
- Adventure Therapy with a skilled leader.
- Counselling within school.
- External 1:1 therapeutic support.
POINT OF CLARIFICATION - 'Time Out' in Behavioural Theory is the removal of rewards for a short period of time and NOT a physical isolation of a child in a solitary space.
This is clearly a revolutionary reverse of existing practice in schools and society at large.
"Emotion is often what we all rely upon to carry us across the unfathomable voids in our intelligence," Bridget Wright.