Tips & Tools to Reduce Disruptive Behavior
March 25, 2015
By Dacia L. Moore, MA, NCC, LPC
3 KEYS TO STOPPING CONFLICTS
STAGE 2 of the Conflict Cycle - The Exploding Phase
Recently, a national study revealed that black children in elementary schools have been suspended at higher rates than white and Latino children, according to the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. This report used civil rights data at the U.S. Department of Education which is collected every two years from every school district through the state department of education.
Part of the problem is that many educators do not know how to effectively de-escalate a situation.
In the last article I talked about stage 1 of the Conflict Cycle - The Getting angrier stage
In this article, I want to give you some tips on avoiding Stage II - the Explosion Stage. (read the article below for more information on Stage 1 – The Getting Angrier Stage).
In his research, Long and his colleagues found that in 100% of the cases in which he studied conflicts 60% of them were escalated by the adult.
Your challenge is to not contribute to escalating a conflict; your job is to DE-ESCALATE a conflict.
An escalation in conflict upsets you, causes your blood pressure to rise and can put you in a negative mood for the rest of the day.
It’s bad for your students who get upset just by watching what's going. It's hard for them to recover and you lose valuable academic time.
Avoid the Exploding Phase if at all possible.
The Exploding Phase is marked by an uncontrollable discharge of anger displayed as verbal or physical aggression. This discharge in turn leads to negative consequences, such as sending the student to in school suspension or out of school suspension, sending him or her to the principal's office or even home for the day. This stage causes high frustration and agitation for you and the student.
Here are some characteristics of the exploding phase:
• Adrenaline increases
• Obvious signs of agitation and distress occur
• Verbal vulgar language erupts
• Physical aggression is likely (this is certainly a safety issue for you) and,
• The ability to use logic diminishes.
Use an Anger Meter, a scale from 1 to 10 - 1=very little anger; 10=An Explosion (a fight has broken out, chairs or other items have been thrown, etc.)
When looking at this scale, your class should be at a six or below at all times. Remember, we are not trying to eliminate anger from our students we are trying to help them to manage their anger more appropriately. But there will be some situations where two students are in conflict or one student is having a bad day and things will begin to escalate. Your job is to catch it early and catch it often. It is much easier to adjust to an escalating situation at a five on the Anger Meter then it is to address a situation that's at an eight on the scale.
When a person’s anger is at a 7.5 or above, that person goes from being a logical person to an emotional person. Some people say the reptile brain begins to function. Others, in the Emotional Intelligence world call it an amygdala hijack. Whatever you call it, the bottom line is that your student is in fight or flight mode, and so are you. That’s why YOU have to remain calm and take control of the situation quickly.
The Impact of Trauma
If some of your students have trauma in their history, you have to be especially careful. Some examples of traumatic experiences that your students may have experienced are:
• Witnessed a drive-by shooting
• Domestic violence
• Violent deaths and/or aggression in their family
• Natural Disaster Survivor
• Living in a high crime/ high poverty neighborhood
These students may be touchy and more defensive about “normal” things and seem to go from 1 to 10 much quicker on the anger meter than other students. You have to be very careful with the students who have a trauma background. First of all, you don’t want to re-traumatize the student, and secondly that student will be harder to de-escalate. It's much easier to catch it early. Here are some ideas for you:
1. When you sense that something is going wrong remove one of the participants. Put them in a new place in the classroom, have them run an errand for you, but separate the two parties that are in the conflict that is the easiest thing to do. Some schools have a safe spot or a safe corner. The key is, you have to have a plan in place to separate students and allow them to calm down.
2. Use a calm yet firm tone of voice to distract the child with whom you have the best relationship. As an example, when faced with a crisis situation with 2 of my students, I said “Ramon I need you to go over and sit down now.” Not in a parental tone of voice, yet firm enough to let him know I meant business. Use direct eye contact and speak with intention. Repeat the direction twice, the third time add the potential consequence.
3. Always express hope in that student that he/she will make the right choice for their future. “Ramon, I know you want to go to gym class later. Make a good choice son, put down the chair and come over here.” Ramon reluctantly put the chair down that he was aiming at another student. He didn’t really want to throw the chair and needed a way to “save face”. Students are still children and often do not understand the long term ramifications of their behavior, but you do. Help them to come out of the situation by saving face and thinking about their future.
You will not de-escalate every situation, but you can improve how you handle conflicts that do come your way and hopefully, your out of classroom/ out of school suspension rates will improve as a result. Remember, catch it early - catch it often.
Stop Conflict before it starts - Stage 1 of the Conflict Cycle - The Getting Angrier Stage
February 2, 2015
An ounce of prevention is still worth more than a pound of cure, especially when dealing with conflict in the classroom. The best way to handle conflicts of any kind is to catch them early and catch them often.
But de-escalating conflict is not for the faint at heart. Angry, aggressive students have a way of allowing a small offense to turn into a World War III-size conflict! This month I want to help you maintain a peaceful classroom by being aware of The Crisis Cycle.
The Crisis Cycle
The Crisis Cycle is the cycle that occurs anytime anger is escalating. There are three phases to the Crisis Cycle, which affects the people directly involved with the crisis as well as bystanders.
The three phases to any Crisis Cycle are:
1. The Getting Angrier Phase
2. The Exploding Phase
3. The Aftermath
The intensity, frequency and duration of anger in the Crisis Cycle varies among individuals. One student's anger may escalate rapidly after a trigger event and within just a few minutes reach the Exploding phase. Another student's anger may escalate slowly but steadily over several hours before reaching the Exploding Phase.
One student may engage in more violent behavior than the other during the Exploding Phase. For example, one student may throw things, hit someone or turn desks over; another student may shout or threaten other students or the teacher.
Regardless of these individual differences, the Exploding Phase is synonymous with losing control and becoming verbally or physically aggressive. The Exploding Phase is the phase to avoid, by addressing the trigger of the angry student(s) in the Getting Angrier Phase.
Remember: Catch it early, catch it often. You should always be aware of the "temperature" in your classroom, particularly of the more "sensitive", easily angered students. Here are a few tips for catching a conflict at stage 1 - The Getting Angrier Stage- before the conflict gets out of hand:
1. You notice that groups of students are "whispering" about something - it might be that they have a heads up that two students are beginning a conflict. Have a process in your classroom (develop this during your weekly class meetings) for students to alert you of any signs of trouble.
2. You begin to hear elevated voices. This is the most obvious sign that trouble is on the way.
3. You've heard through the grapevine that a conflict is brewing between two students in your class - take this seriously and plan a quiet activity if possible to allow for tempers to subside.
4. Post an Anger Meter ( a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the most angry you can get) have students who feel their anger is above a 7 to alert you privately at the beginning of class. (Don't have an Anger Meter? Check out my Disruptive Behavior Package that has 4 of them!)
Each phase of the conflict cycle has warning signs to watch for and ways to minimize the impact to the overall classroom. Remember, maintaining a peaceful classroom is the goal.
Tips & Tools to Reduce Disruptive Behavior
By Dacia L. Moore, MA, NCC, LPC
Hello, this is Dacia Moore, LPC and welcome to today’s audio lesson of Tips & Tools to Reduce Disruptive Behavior.
Today is the first audio in a series on Developing a Resilient Mindset for those who work with high risk youth.
Resilience, is the ability to bounce back when faced with difficulty or obstacles, and it is a key ingredient that you must have when working with high risk youth.
And your mindset, the way you think about things, has a lot to do with how successful you are at working with high risk, very difficult youth.
So In order to maintain and keep a resilient mindset, you have to learn to manage your stress.
Working with high risk students who daily dish out difficult behavior is really tough. If you are going to survive you need to do this one thing often.
Manage your stress - catch it early, catch it often.
You know that working with high risk youth is an extremely stressful situation, but in order to be resilient like the tires on your care, you have to make sure that you expel the stress and fill up your mental, physical and spiritual energy with positive thoughts
That means that you have to manage your stress
Because stress is subtle, and can creep up on you. Before you know it, you have a headache, you have a pain in your neck and you become more and more irritable.
You start to have other physical complaints, and it’s all because of stress
So manage your stress by catching it early and catching it often.
Just imagine that you are looking at a rating scale from 1-10, with 1 being very little stress, and 10 being the most stressed that you have felt.
10 STRESSED OUT!!!
8 Moderately High Stress
6 Moderate Stress
4 Mild Stress
1 Very Little Stress
When do you thing you recognize you stress?
If you are like most of us, you recognize you stress at about a 7 or 8. But you know what, it’s too late when you are at a 7 or 8. Hence the advice to catch it early, catch it often.
It is much better for you to be in tune with your body and notice your stress level rising throughout the day and take a mini break in order to do a deep breathing exercise, visualize your special place, look out the window, take a walk around the block, even take a mental break by going into the bathroom and thinking about something pleasant.
If you learn how to manage your stress early and often you will be much more resilient when you are faced with difficult student behavior in the classroom.
I have worked with many educators and often I conduct trainings and educators, teacher and parents tell me “I don’t take my lunch break” or “I didn’t eat anything all day until I got home for dinner.”
Does that help you to manage your stress? No, that actually contributes to your stress.
So take a tip from me – Catch it early, catch it often.
Notice and become more in tune with your body, more in tune with how you are feeling, what you are thinking and take micro breaks throughout the day, just mini- breaks, it doesn’t have to be any longer than 3-5 minutes. That will help you to manage your stress
That is today’s Tip & Tool for Working with Disruptive Behavior.
Check out the Events Page for information on upcoming workshops and tools to help you manage difficult student behavior.
To download FREE questionnaire worksheets from the book, Fires In The Mind, click here
 Mosca, F, and Yost, D. Beyond Behavior Strategies: Using Reflection to manage youth in crisis. Clearinghouse, v755, n. 5. P 264-667. May-June 2002.
 Davis, Martha, et al. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. (2008) New Harbinger Publications
 Moore, D (2010) Why Are So Many Students So Angry? Second Wind Counseling & Consulting, LLC.
 Beaty-O’Ferrall, M., Green, A., & Hanna F. Classroom Management Strategies for Difficult Students: Promoting Change through Relationships. Middle School Journal. March 2010
 Marzano, R. J., Marzano J.S., & Pickering, D.J. (2003). Classroom management that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
 Cushman, K. Fires in the Mind. (2010). Jossey-Bass Publications.
 To download questionnaire worksheets as a pdf, please go to
Reference List – Bully Prevention Articles
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Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention. Middle School Journal. January 2006. Pg 12 – 19.
Preventing Bullying. ERIC Digest. ED463563 2002-03-00
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When Kids Use Ethnicity and Gender to Bully.
http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu – go to Quick Find – Center Resources - Bullying