I’m currently reading Michelle Obama’s bestselling book, Becoming. Michelle reflects on her childhood throughout the book.
She shares how during the lead-up to the 2008 election she was supporting her husband’s presidential campaign by delivering speeches across the USA. These speeches, as you can imagine, where dissected by the press and at times she was not only misquoted but became the subject of some unkind reporting on her and her family.
Michelle reflects on this and recalls an incident from her childhood, where out of nowhere and seemingly for no reason a boy punched her in the face. Her mother, on returning from a meeting with the school about the incident, explained, “That boy was just scared and angry about things that had nothing to do with you…. He’s dealing with a whole lot of problems of is own.” Her mother’s non-judgemental words were telling her that when others do you harm, physically and verbally, it’s not your fault.
This made me think about how we support children who have suffered trauma during their early years, how they display this, and how as educators we can connect in a sensitive and positive way. I’ve written previously about why the term ‘managing children’s behaviour’, is not useful as children are not objects to be managed, and how we can, as educators, co-regulate with children.
Oprah Winfrey reflected this sentiment after interviewing world-renowned trauma expert Dr Bruce Perry. Rather than saying “What is wrong with that person?” we should reframe and say, “What has happened to you?” The behaviour reflects their traumatic experience.
I would add to this when dealing with our youngest and most vulnerable people in society, who display dysregulation, that we must build meaningful, loving connections and develop empathy. When we are curious we should be asking reflective questions, “what has happened to this child and what can we (adults) do?” Importantly, co-regulating behaviour with children will in turn give children the tools to regulate their own behaviour.
I will end with this quote from Dr Perry to guide us with our reflections: “Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.”
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