What might be behind negative group activity and impulsivity?
- There may well be an inherited style of impulsive thinking and reacting.
- Stress - either caused by a temporary situation or a problem of long duration may be behind some impulsive behaviours and low tolerance levels.
- It is possible that some impulsive children imitate adults or peers who are also impulsive.
"Hereditary"; Temperament-Based"...What this Means and does not Mean
Many of the individual ways in which both children and adults approach their social relations are, to some extent, inherited. Many people are uncomfortable with this idea, mostly because they do not really understand what it means. The following may help:
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- No known social behaviour is 100% caused by heredity; the environments provided by parents, teachers and other children always have some influence.
- Heredity can set the range of a child's social behaviour but not determine where within the range of hereditary influence a particular child's behaviour will fall. For example, a child born with a shy, reticent temperament is not likely to become a highly outgoing popular leader. However, the way the child is raised will still help determine just how shy he or she will end up.
- Scientists can estimate how much a certain type of social behaviour (such as shyness or aggression) is inherited for the population in general. However, it is not usually possible to estimate this for any individual person.
- The fact that a certain type of social behaviour is influenced by genetics does NOT mean that it cannot be changed.
- The fact that a certain type of social behaviour is influenced by genetics means that parents should not be blamed for it. However, parents (and teachers) are still responsible for providing the best environment possible to help the child overcome his or her social-behaviour problem.
- Whatever the cause of a social-relations problem, it is important to work steadily to achieve improvement that makes a difference. Even small gains can be very important in the long run. Do not expect a "quick fix" and do not give up.
Research has shown that there are many ways that teachers can help reduce these problems. Although implementing the following steps may not eliminate 100% of the negative behaviours that alienate both teachers and other pupils, these measures are likely to result in considerable improvement:
You can use the following steps in two ways.
- First of all, they can be taught systematically as guidance activities for groups at any age level. Some of the programs and instructional materials available commercially have been tested in schools and found effective (www.researchpress.com is a good resource for materials that have been evaluated).
- You can also incorporate these steps during disciplinary exchanges
- It is best to do both: teach problem-solving/self-control skills and incorporate them in your classroom routines. If you do, pupils have the chance to learn the skills before they are needed in a critical moment. They will then get the message that what you teach about social relations is supposed to be used.
Here, in capsule form, are the steps used to teach self-control and problem-solving in successful programs developed by such researchers as Myrna Shure, Bonnie Camp, Maurice Elias, and others. Stop and Think: Impulse Control for Children, by Dr. Tonia Caselman, is one example of a useful book with some ideas in carrying out these steps.
- Step 1 Getting them to slow down and think!
- The first thing to do in a confrontation situation is slow down the rapid, intense reactions that make it difficult to think straight about the problem and plan the best response. There are many ways of teaching this, such as:
- relaxation training;
- having the pupils count backwards from 10 to 1;
- showing the pupils a stop sign (rather than speaking) when they look
- Step 2 Identifying the problem
- Make sure that the pupil understands, first of all, that there is a problem and, then, exactly what it is.
- Step 3 Generating possible solutions
- It is important to encourage the pupils to think of all their realistic alternatives. You might say "Let's think about all the things you could realistically do in this situation." When they answer, you can acknowledge: "Yes, that's one possibility. Can any one think of another?" If they come up with a solution that is not realistic, respond: "Do you think that is a realistic option?"
- The idea here is to encourage the thinking skill of coming up with different alternatives. At this stage, the teacher or group leader should not evaluate the solutions proposed, except to eliminate those that are really not realistic. Sometimes, however, the pupils will come up with a solution that will harm other people or property. In that case, it may be best to say: "I guess that's one thing that you could do, but I wouldn't do that because it would hurt (name)."
- Step 4 Evaluating the solutions.
- At this stage, the pupils are asked to list:
- the advantages and disadvantages of each solution; and
- what would happen next if they implemented each of the solutions
- Step 5 Deciding on the best solution
- Using the information from Step 4, decide what is best for them to do.
- Step 6 Implementing this solution.
- Have the pupils think about the steps needed to carry out what they have decided is the best solution. If they do not respond, you can start things going by showing them the first few steps, for example, "So, if what I want to do is join a game, the first step is waiting for a pause in the game and walk over to the kids who are playing. What is the next thing you would do?"
- Step 7. Evaluating their Implementation
- Pupils with social-relations problems often:
- expect to fail at everything they try, or
- are totally unaware that there is anything wrong with the social behaviour.
To help them, you can ask such things as:
- How well did you do in solving the problem?
- What mark would you give yourself for the way you handled the problem?
In some of the elementary and junior high schools that work with Maurice Elias, pupils who misbehave are sent to a word processor where they answer prompts, such as:
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- What was the problem that caused you to be sent here?
- Did you do anything to stop yourself from doing the first thing that popped into your mind?
- What were all the things you could have done in that situation?
- What did you do?
- What happened next?
- What grade would you give yourself for the way you handled this problem