When a student argues and doesn’t see another perspective

(Two Minute Read)

Last week, a question was posed about a third grade student who always argues back when she is reprimanded, and does not accept what the teacher is saying. What can the teacher do? What can the therapist or parent do to get the child to listen to the teacher’s perspective?

When a child is arguing passionately, they are in emotion mind. Their rational brain is NOT thinking. That is probably the absolute worst time to try to explain something to them rationally! They are simply not capable of hearing anything!!

Imagine if someone’s finger got stuck in the door and they are screaming in pain. Should we try to give them a rational explanation at that moment why they should not have been so careless and gotten their finger jammed? NO! First, get their finger free from the door so that the pain can begin to subside!!!

How do we help kids get unstuck emotionally? One powerful strategy is to validate the child’s perspective, feelings, or experience. This helps them calm down enough to be able to hear the other person’s (or teacher’s) perspective.

For example, if the child is arguing with the teacher that it wasn’t his fault that the milk spilled and therefore he refuses to clean it up, the teacher might say something like, “You’re saying that you were holding the cup but Ezriel bumped into you and therefore the milk spilled. Is that right? (child nods) And you think that Ezriel should clean it up, correct? (child nods) And if not for Ezriel, we wouldn’t have this huge milk puddle on the floor. Is that right? (child nods) I hear that… And you’re really upset that I’m making you clean up instead of Ezriel. Right? (child nods) Hmmm…”

You may need to continue to validate the child a bit more until you see him visibly calming down. Once the child is sufficiently calm and is no longer in fighting mode or emotion mind, he is more likely to listen to what the teacher observed. He is also more likely to clean up the mess willingly.

If the teacher isn’t yet skilled at validating, the therapist or parent can validate the child at a later time, too, so that the child ultimately hears the teacher’s perspective.

Have a wonderful week!


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