Don’t snap back!

Published Categorized as behaviour management, coping strategies, emotional literacy

Here is a reframing tool I discovered recently that’s so simple, it’s brilliant. It helps children (and adults) deal less reactively with behaviours of others that press their buttons. A typical scenario is child X snaps a nasty comment at child Y. How child Y responds depends on a variety of things: their personality, their mood, their relationship with child X, their sensitivity to what was said, how tired they are etc. But if the snapping has triggered an emotional response, with a child who does not manage their emotions well, chances are they will become defensive and snap back and things are likely to escalate and nothing will get sorted.

So here is the re-framing tool.

Child X snaps a nasty comment. Child Y notices they are reacting and asked themselves, ‘under what circumstances would I behave like that?’ This question could be made more child friendly: Would I ever behave like that and if so when?

This simple question is extremely effective for changing a child’s response as it not only provides a pause between the trigger and the response, it automatically encourages the child to empathise with the child who is behaving in a  way they don’t like. It also acknowledges the reality that we don’t all behave as well as we could all of the time, for a variety of reasons. It makes the situation not about child Y’s usual automatic response, but about considering what might be going on for the other person.

So as brilliant as this is, my suspicion is that some children will refuse to accept that they would ever behave in the way that has just triggered them. Even if this is the case, if they ask the question, the next time they behave in a way that might trigger someone else, they might be more likely to be aware of it.

I will also add, that this reframing does not make all behaviours acceptable or appropriate but it does allow for the idea that we can all make mistakes. Also, a less reactive and defensive response to someone’s behaviour has more chance of addressing it in a way that will make a person reflect upon what they have done and the impact it’s had on others.

(Re-framing Idea from the book: Emotional Literacy by Rob Bocchino)