Testing the boundaries…

Assembly this morning was FAB! I was asking the children about why they think we are a Rights Respecting school and they were writing their ideas on a flip chart. Their ideas were great and their behaviour was excellent. At the end of the assembly we decided to leave the flip chart up for the day so that all the children could have a chance to write their ideas on it. I tried this a couple of years ago and the paper got defaced and trashed and the pens were stolen. Today I told the children that I trusted them to use it properly…

The start of the day was very calm and focussed so I started ploughing through the paperwork on my desk. After about five minutes a familiar face appeared at my door, accompanied by an Assistant Head, who was holding on to him very firmly. The boy with the cheeky grin wasn’t grinning cheekily this morning. In fact, he had ripped up some other children’s work and was kicking and punching, though I noticed, not with quite as vehemence as he used to. We managed to get him into my office and he went and sat under my table and started kicking the wall.

I took his shoes off. What followed was initially like a battle of wills. He had brought two teddies into school and was demanding them. ‘GIVE ME MY TEDDIES NOW!’. My parroted reply was ‘you can have your teddies when you start to make the right choices.’ This went on for about ten minutes when he suddenly blurted out ‘PHONE MY MUM AND TELL HER I HATE HER!’. At this point a visitor arrived to see me so I asked my Pupil and Family Support Worker to talk to Cheeky Grin (as she works with him on Emotional Literacy Support Sessions). The blurting out had seemed to calm him a bit. He agreed to go into the other office with my PFSW.

Some children don’t seem to think you mean what you say. It seems as though the adults around them say things but don’t follow them through. We have a tricky boy who really tests this to the limit. He simply refused to do any learning all day. It was within his capability, he had plenty of support. He was jealous of the two statemented children in his class who have 1:1 support. He is a bright boy who hates not getting his own way. Thus commenced battle of wills number two.

I explained to him that the learning and support was in the classroom – my intention was to make it as boring as possible not being in class and to show that if he was out of class he wouldn’t get support with his work. This child likes to get lots of individual attention. This stand-off went on for most of the day, culminating in a whopping two and a half hours of payback. This seems extreme I know but we have worked closely with the parents on this and the idea is that he makes up for the learning time that he has wasted during the day. He spent this payback with me. It was fascinating, he was asking me all sorts of questions about what I had said and what I was going to do. He was constantly trying to negotiate, to take control.

None of his challenging was done in an aggressive way but there was a lot of sulking. What was also fascinating was that the firmer I was, the more relaxed the child became and the more chatty and open he was. The very firm boundary was making him feel very safe.

I guess the point about today is that you can’t always have a rigid policy which has identical responses for every child. You have to react to the needs of the individual and take each individual situation as unique. One of our mantras at school is ‘know your children’ and it is the same for SLT when we are dealing with behaviour incidents.

We have to put lots of boundaries in place as they are not set properly at home, they are either too fierce or too malleable, leaving the children not sure where they are and giving them the opportunity to ‘tantrum’ to get what they want.

At the end of the day a very Cheeky Grin appeared at my door. He was looking more like himself and had come for his teddies. I reminded him that I had said I would keep them until tomorrow as he had denied the rights of the other children and that he was going to earn them back. He accepted the boundary really well, and actually went home smiling. When I finally caught up with my PFSW to talk about the day she told me that Cheeky Grin had told her something that concerned her and she was going to seek advice. Social Care were called, and their advice to us was to talk to the parents. This request from Social services is happening more and more often and we as a school are not very comfortable with it. We are logging and will be taking it further…

Once the children had gone and I had the boy in my office doing his learning I went to have a look at the flip chart.

I was incredibly impressed. Every comment was a sensible one. Not a scribble, not a rude word and no graffiti. The school has come a long way…

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3 Responses to Testing the boundaries…

  1. Tony says:

    even from the little you have told us about the two children that ‘did not conform’ I can tell that there is some form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder here. This seems to me to be typical attitude to behavioural problems … those that conform …. pat on the back …. those that don’t … punishment. Parent of a son with ASD ADHD ADD and serious behavioral problems … look beyond the good/bad

    • bergistra says:

      It’s not about punishment or conforming but helping children to understand that it’s not ok to deny the rights of other children… If you read back through the blogs you will see what I mean…

  2. Don’t agree with Tony above re ASD – these children sound like many who have just not been given boundaries and taught social skills. I am a firm believer in tough love and am constantly telling teachers that they are too ‘nice’ to children behaving very badly.. Seems easy for some to ‘feel sorry’ for children who have a tough time at home and try to compensate by being too unassertive. To a child used to harsh or agressive treatment or little attention this comes across as weakness and the teacher will be walked all over. Firm but fair is my mantra. You can reward with attention/ smiles/ even a hug for positive achievments, when back on track. I have a problem with the language of ‘choice’. You can offer specific limited choices but the idea of an emotionally damaged or distressed child being able to ‘choose’ how they behave seems a nonsense to me.

    In most SEBD schools there is the luxury of small adult child ratios and time to really individualise approaches to suit each child. Even a basic grasp of attachment theory will tell you that different approaches work best for different children and depending on the root of their emotional difficulties. In mainstream school the real investment of time and energy in a child for even a short time can really pay off in the longer term and get them back on track for more positive outcomes. I am a big supporter of the Nurture Group approach. Thanks for drawing my attention to this, interesting and I may use it in a training I have coming up if you don’t mind.

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