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Dear Tom

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by garveyjoyce, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. I run a nurture class in a primary school. I have had difficult and challenging children in the past and have managed to modify and improve their behaviour. However I have an eight year old boy who has been with me for 2 terms and he has not responded to any of the many, many strategies I have used. He is extremely violent, kicking,biting,punching, spitting,throwing objects including chairs. He is also verbally aggressive. He can also be charming , especially with new adults. He has a constant need to control every situation and the violence occurs when he cannot. The violence is always calculated. He has rarely really lost his temper. Our latest strategy, which has started this week, is to keep him in one small area of the class where he can work and have free time. He is told (in a very caring way) that he cannot join the rest of the class untill he can behaviour politely ie. no violence and no swearing. He has to be restrained a number of times a day because of his violent outbursts but I feel that there is a slight improvement in that he is compiling more often and more quickly. I have come to the conclusion that he needs very,very firm boundaries which cannot be relaxed until there is significant improvement. I believe the previous strategies haven't worked because they are all based on being fair and reasonable with a child who sees such behaviour as open for manipulation and control. There is input from outside agencies but the bottom line is there is nowhere else or nobody else who can take him on.we are his last chance. I suspect he may have an attachment disorder. I suppose my question really is are we on the right lines by having what is basically a zero tolerance approach, all be it with a caring and nurturing ethos? I'm really asking can my class make a difference and improve his behaviour, has it been done with children who have such extreme behaviours ? I would be very happy to have your views.
     
  2. I run a nurture class in a primary school. I have had difficult and challenging children in the past and have managed to modify and improve their behaviour. However I have an eight year old boy who has been with me for 2 terms and he has not responded to any of the many, many strategies I have used. He is extremely violent, kicking,biting,punching, spitting,throwing objects including chairs. He is also verbally aggressive. He can also be charming , especially with new adults. He has a constant need to control every situation and the violence occurs when he cannot. The violence is always calculated. He has rarely really lost his temper. Our latest strategy, which has started this week, is to keep him in one small area of the class where he can work and have free time. He is told (in a very caring way) that he cannot join the rest of the class untill he can behaviour politely ie. no violence and no swearing. He has to be restrained a number of times a day because of his violent outbursts but I feel that there is a slight improvement in that he is compiling more often and more quickly. I have come to the conclusion that he needs very,very firm boundaries which cannot be relaxed until there is significant improvement. I believe the previous strategies haven't worked because they are all based on being fair and reasonable with a child who sees such behaviour as open for manipulation and control. There is input from outside agencies but the bottom line is there is nowhere else or nobody else who can take him on.we are his last chance. I suspect he may have an attachment disorder. I suppose my question really is are we on the right lines by having what is basically a zero tolerance approach, all be it with a caring and nurturing ethos? I'm really asking can my class make a difference and improve his behaviour, has it been done with children who have such extreme behaviours ? I would be very happy to have your views.
     
  3. mehmetdan

    mehmetdan New commenter

    I'm no expert but I have worked with some very challenging children and one of them sounds just like yours. I would suggest that the strategies appear to not have worked because he is constantly resisting them in order to check whether they are still in place and will work for him. If he has attachment issues then any boundaries need to be secure and constant - if you keep changing/adjusting them he will understandably feel insecure. You need a very clear behaviour policy with specific steps that everyone adheres to and stick with it. If he starts to improve, don't relax the boundaries because then they won't be there for when he needs them and he will realise he can't rely on them. Children with attachment issues struggle with trusting others because they have been let down before. He has to learn to trust you and the strategies and that will take time.
    Often children with attachment issues lash out because that's how they feel about themselves. They are in pain and want others to feel their pain. One child I worked with would hit other children as he walked up the corridor if he had just been disciplined. He didn't like seeing other children happy when he felt so lousy so he would punch them so they could feel his pain. Building positive identity, self-worth and self-esteem are areas that you could work on with him during his nurture classes.
    The key things that transformed the child I worked with was having a strong team that worked closely together with the parent.Change won't happen over night and you will need a lot of patience and understanding but it will be worth it.
    You haven't said whether you have a Positive Handling Plan, I assume you do, but if not you should have one along with restraint training.
     
  4. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Hi there
    Children who exhibit such extreme-spectrum behaviour need the most attention to modify, obviously, and I would absolutely agree with your assessment that he needs rigid, clear boundaries- much more than most children, because he so freely abuses the boundaries and conventions that most children take for granted.
    Any strategy based on reason or reasonableness would be fruitless. It's not that he doesn't understand his behaviour, or other people; it''s that he doesn't care about others enough, or their needs. He seems locked in an infantile stage where his needs are paramount and any strategy available to obtain the ends of these needs is fair game. As you say, teachers that give him a hand will experience their arm being chewed off with gusto.
    You might be the only person in the world who cares enough about him to try to teach him about boundaries. Can you imagine what he'll be like in a few years, a decade, if he doesn't learn to amend his behaviour, and if someone doesn't teach him that he cannot expect to remain such a person if he intends to join and participate in society? You can very easily imagine a long, tortured path that leads to a variety of awful scenarios and alternate futures. You could be the person who points out the straight path. I would say hold steady, for God's sake hold steady. Keep sanctions stiff and certain, and perhaps step them up; removal to another room to work alone should automatically happen after a period of violence- at the very least. He must learn that using his fists will lock him off from the community. Because it will.
    Good luck
    Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.
     
  5. Any strategy based on reason or reasonableness would be fruitless. It's not that he doesn't understand his behaviour, or other people; it''s that he doesn't care about others enough, or their needs. He seems locked in an infantile stage where his needs are paramount and any strategy available to obtain the ends of these needs is fair game. As you say, teachers that give him a hand will experience their arm being chewed off with gusto.

    Isn't this true of many adults too? And society doesn't know what to do about them, either
     
  6. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Absolutely. And because life isn't perfect, sometimes the best we can hope for is containment,and preventing them from harming others. C'est la vie...
    T
     
  7. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your advice and support . You have reinforced what I have come to believe about helping children like this. The zero tolerance approach does seem to be making a difference. We are two weeks into the term, the first week was a constant battle, last week marginally better, last Friday he was almost perfect and we had the best Monday
    morning today in the two terms he's been with us. It is very early days yet but I feel much encouraged. When we can stop the extreme behaviours ,I can see another boy who is lively and easily distracted and has issues with his ability and esteem. But until we stop the violence we can't help him. I hope Ican give more positive updates as the term progresses.
    Thanks again
     
  8. Hi
    Your advice about not relaxing boundaries struck a chord. I can see that that has happened in the past when we thought being 'nice' to him when he complied and taking the pressure off would work. I can see some improvement in his behaviour and when we do need to apply sanctions, it is not for so long as previously. We will continue with this approach and hopefully we can help him.
     

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