I’ll bet, when you tell the kids in your house they are
grounded, they smile, nod sweetly and say, “Yes, Ma’mn.”
I’ll bet they accept your wisdom and authority without question.
I’ll bet you’ve never had an angry kid…or spouse…or
neighbor in your face.
Anyway, I went to a class on De-escalation, thinking I knew it
I was wrong.
First, I like to sit down and make the kid stand. Shows them right
off who’s in control, right? Not so much. When you want to step down a confrontive situation, both of you should BE SEATED…at the same level. And if the other person stands up, you stand up. Don’t
sit facing the other person head-on. Turn a bit in your chair. And don’t make continuous eye contact either. Look down
once in a while. Let the other person “disengage.” (And be aware—if they begin to pace, the situation is
getting beyond your control…pacing signals that the other person is attempting to up the ante…to increase the
When a kid squares off with me, the last thing on my mind is respecting
him. Turns out that should be the first thing I think about. I’m 5’5. Most kids are bigger than that.
Okay, I outweigh most of them, but blubber is not a fear factor.
And I want them to respect me. It’s an Aretha thing…y’know.
Number one on the de-escalation list: MUTUAL RESPECT. Don’t call names. Meathead, Dufus, Bear-breath,
Chucky Wheeze and Pimple-butt are all pretty much inappropriate here.
ALLOW VENTILATION ROOM BETWEEN YOU …say four or five feet. The area between you, say
the experts, is filled with anxiety and anger. It makes the other person feel safer. (Also, this distance allows you about
a 2 second head start if things go south.)
RAISE YOUR VOICE. See? This is where it gets hard. I always thought that the volume of your voice was in direct proportion
to the importance of what you had to say.
The gurus also warn us not to point. That pointer finger has always
served me well. It helps me differentiate which of the kids is grounded for three months. It lets me direct them to their
rooms when they get sassy. But it turns out it has no place here.
Instead, we’re told, make your voice VERY calm. Almost monotonous.
With younger children or very agitated people it might even work to speak in
a stage-whisper. They’ll have to tone down to hear what you’re saying.
BE AWARE OF YOUR PHYSICAL STANCE. Keep your hands out of your
pockets…visible and open in your lap. Don’t touch the other person. (Okay, we’re four feet apart. My arms
aren’t that long. And I thought maybe a little hug…some TLC…but I guess this is NOT the time for that.)
Out-of-control people could feel threatened or misinterpret touch as threatening. I read that one girl was touched at the
nape of her neck…a gesture meant to soothe her…and she felt she was being choked. She responded violently. And
don’t smile. It’s another sign that could be misinterpreted as sarcastic or threatening. (One source compared
it to a threatening animal baring its teeth.) And another imperative: NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON THE OTHER PERSON.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EXPLAIN OR DEFEND YOUR POSITION, OR TO CONVINCE THEM. This is solely to calm down a situation.
There should be NO Context. This is not a time to read them the “Parents Bill of Rights.” The goal is just to
make everyone safe.
ANSWER ONLY INFORMATIONAL QUESTIONS. Whether or not their language is appropriate, answer questions like “When
do I get to see my *%#^ father?” Do NOT answer, “Why are you being
such a jerk?” Do not even respond to that type of attack…it is NOT personal. Don’t make it that way.
All righty, then. We’re sitting down, four feet apart. I’m
talking quietly. My hands are in my lap. I’m not smiling. I’m not defending my position. WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING,
THEN? Well, the experts say I should LAY OUT THE CONSEQUENCES of the other person’s actions. Factually. Without
other comment. And make it clear that the consequences are “just the rules…the same for everybody.” Give choices where you can: “Can you meet with me calmly right now, or would
you like some time to cool off?”
So now is the time for some warm fuzzies, right? To ask them how
they are feeling? Only if you want this thing to implode right then and there. STAY AWAY FROM “FEELING” WORDS. Ask, instead, for the person to repeat
what they are saying to you so that you are sure you understand.
And the last thing they said in the de-escalation class was to
trust your instincts. If you feel threatened…LEAVE
Okay. That one I get. And I was pretty much right on there. It
was a good class. Informative and all. And I gave it a good score on those evaluation
sheets. The thing is, I like to put that stuff I learn into practice as soon as I can so I don’t forget it. So, basically,
I need to go pick a fight with someone so I can see if this stuff works!
If it doesn’t, I may write an article on basic first