Why keeping quiet might be the key
We all manage behaviour differently. Take a quick walk around a school and you will see multiple ways of dealing with similar situations – some brilliant, some less-impressive… but because we are human we have all done both! A child tapping his pencil on the desk might elicit different responses from different adults – one teacher might react by commenting on it in front of the entire class, another might quietly walk over to the student to address it.
While delivering a whole class lesson, one teacher will stop the lesson for a brief moment to address two children talking out of turn in front of the class, while another will continue delivering the lesson and use eye contact and gestures to let the children know s/he has “eyes in the back of their head” (see Withitness post from a few weeks ago).
Effective behaviour management is a learnt skill. Even if we have a natural inclination toward engaging young people’s attention, we must still fine tune our skills for effective behaviour management.
Although verbally addressing behaviours might be more instinctive (and easier), verbal prompts become the hardest to remove because children will eventually stop tuning in to our continuous droning (Erin Oak Centre for Treatment and Development). Non-verbal techniques put more onus on the child to follow-through and require a certain amount of self-control- for adults! Additionally, dealing with behaviour through planned non-verbal responses can help us stay in control of our own emotional reactions.
Non-verbal behaviour management techniques:
Are more useful for managing non-aggressive and non-threatening behaviours
Teach children to make decisions without the necessity for adult voice
Require teaching planning for how they will deal with behaviour (response instead of reaction)
Prevents “teacher voice burnout” where kids tune out due to a constant droning voice
Allow space for a classroom to “breathe” – a more quiet space for thinking, reasoning, and taking responsibility
Maintain the flow of a lesson – a teacher can keep teaching while using other methods to deal with behaviour
Reaction versus Response
I find that choosing a non-verbal technique helps me creatively respond to a situation rather than instinctively react to them. And there’s a big difference!
According to Dr. Matt from Psychology Today, there is a big difference between reaction and response. He says:
A reaction is instant. It’s driven by the beliefs, biases, and prejudices of the unconscious mind. When you say or do something “without thinking,” that’s the unconscious mind running the show. A reaction is based in the moment and doesn’t take into consideration long term effects of what you do or say. A reaction is survival-oriented and on some level a defense mechanism. It might turn out okay but often a reaction is something you regret later.
A response on the other hand usually comes more slowly. It’s based on information from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind. A response will be more “ecological,” meaning that it takes into consideration the well-being of not only you but those around you. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values.
(Psychology Today Blog, 2016)
The four Non-verbal behaviour management techniques we will look at include:
Gesturing- pointing or motioning to guide a response
Visuals- pictures, symbols and text that can assist with a child response
Modelling- demonstrating a specific desired skill
Proximity- using your location to prompt a desired response
Over the next month we will look in depth at each one of these!