5 Words to Avoid When Helping Students De-Escalate

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

De-escalation is such a HARD process - and the language we use can become the reasons why a student calms, or a student escalates further. De-escalation language should always be non-judgmental and the adult should try to listen more than they talk. So if you are talking, here's 5 words to avoid to help the process.

1.) "But..."

Whenever we use the word "but" in a sentence, we're going against what our conversation partner is saying. In de-escalation, it's all about affirming and listening, not trying to argue your point. Instead of interjecting what you want to say, try taking a deep breath and turning on your listening ears.

2.) "Consequence"

Talking about a child's consequence or what will happen to them as a result of their behavior is a big NO if you're working on calming the child down. If there are school policies that warrant specific next steps after all is said and done, let that be a discussion for much later. Right now, focus on emotional and physical safety for the child, and to ensure they're feeling heard by you.

3.) "Always/Never"

When we speak in big generalizations about a person or a situation, it paints an unfair picture of the truth, and doesn't open up the conversation to feel safe for both communication partners. Try to not speak about the original problem, but focus on how to help the child move from crisis to feeling safer and more calm. A debrief conversation, with safe and respectful words, can happen later.

4.) "Why?"

It's in our nature to problem solve immediately and try to determine the cause of the crisis. During the crisis cycle, resist the urge to problem solve and probe. Our students brains are physically not able to clearly problem solve and articulate needs when they're in a crisis. Save this for a debrief later!

5.) Any kind of sarcasm

While some elements of distraction and humor can be helpful for SOME students, sarcasm is definitely off limits in this situation. Sarcasm would be a foreign language for a crisis-affected brain, and will likely be interpreted as truth. Stick to empathetic responses and careful listening!

What are some of your tried-and-true de-escalation techniques?


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