Tips for Deescalating a Situation

Have you ever seen your child begin to show signs of an explosive outburst and wanted to get ahead of it before it bubbles over? Here are some of the tips our teachers use at sites to deescalate a situation that anyone can try at home too!

Step 1: Breathe & Think Before You Act When you start to see a negative behavior, take a deep breath and think about how you will respond. Observing the child’s body language and tone of voice will help you determine your course of action. Look for signs of an aggressive stance, sadness or off task indicators.

Step 2: Proximity & Validation Speak to the child calmly and quietly. Matching aggression with aggression is only going to escalate the situation. If there are other children around, whether that be a group of friends or siblings, ask the child to come to a different area to talk. Removing the audience can be a key factor in how the child reacts. Inquire about how the child is feeling in the moment. Understanding the emotion they are feeling will help you move forward. To reinforce that you are just trying to help the child get through this outburst, validate their emotions. Children are still learning how to regulate their emotions and have every right to feel what they are feeling. Simply acknowledging that the situation is upsetting the child will show empathy and your willingness to help.

Step 3: Give Options, Not Threats Offer the child options to get to your final goal. If there is something you are asking them to do (i.e. a chore or homework) make that mandatory but offer different ways to get there. Providing different options for getting the task done allows the child to think they have more of a choice in this situation and can help them feel more in control. Making threats will only escalate the situation. Focus on the positive things they ARE doing, like making eye contact or communicating/expressing their emotions.

Tell the child what you would like them to do, NOT what you want them to stop doing. A simple “Please lower your voice,” versus “stop yelling,” can make a difference in how the child reacts.

Step 4: Don’t Rush the Process

Once you say your peace and give the options, walk away and let the child make their choice. When all else fails, wait it out. If you act like you have all day, the situation is more likely to be better in a few minutes. Monitor the child from as far away as safely possible and make it appear as if you have other things to do.

Step 5: Follow up

When the child has calmed down, follow up on their decision. Praise them for the positive choice they made in a way that best suits their personality.

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