Teachers Speak Out

Eddy Kieffer, Teacher of students with BED (Behavioral/Emotional Disorders)

I was among the first of Jane Schulz's students at Western Carolina University. I have been in the behavior disorder business for 32 years, and that is a few worlds away from the book or Jane's focus. My business is a socio-political one. Until we take care of the poor, addicted, abused, and abusive families nothing much will change in the BED world. We put bandaids over ulcers. I am not happy with my field...but I love to teach.

Managing behavior: working with an angry child

To help a child try to change anything about behavior you have to meet two prerequisites: the kid must trust and like you, and they need to be curious about or desirous for change. The liking part is helped by listening, eye contact, other peers holding you in high esteem and you caring. Then there is time and play. Joy of life needs to be present.

The desire to change and the belief in change is the hard part. First of all, the anger and rage patterns are deeply ingrained, either through role models at an early age and/or the genetic predisposition. It is about as hard a behavior to change as changing your eye color. Not only that, the behavior is as rewarding as gambling; you often get your way or see fear in your victims, instant rewards.

To break down that addiction (just like others), the student must brush by or sit at the bottom to begin to want to change. One feels so strong and powerful and righteous when angry. The stories, individually told—or better yet in a group—help sometimes. How has anger affected your family? What does or did your dad do when angry? Mom? Siblings? Why did you get kicked out of class? What do you want in life and how is anger going to get in the way of your dream? What is abuse and abusive behavior? How do you treat your friends when you are angry? Have you lost friends because of it? An educational argument for change is needed and needed regularly.

Another component is the anger management training. It is useless if the student doesn't want change and only hears preaching. Step one; recognizing anger in yourself.  Then discover your triggers and how to recognize them. Practice techniques for dealing with your anger: breathing, attention refocusing, listening to and watching the incident progress, reflecting on it in a "what could I do better" mode, not an "I am so stupid" one. Next comes committing to trying different coping methods. And role playing. I feel…when you…. Different ways to deal with the same old stuff.

It keeps coming back to the relationship. Can the student trust you to talk about the anger incidences truthfully? Can the student listen to your feedback? Can you accept the anger incidents and keep trying to get the kid to focus in a non-threatening way? Does the student respect your opinion and advice? Over time it can sometimes get better.