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  • Writer's pictureBehaviour Mentor

Behaviour And Emotional Intelligence

I often talk about the power of relationships in my blog posts and today is no different.

Recently, I have been busy listening to podcasts and reflecting on the wealth of knowledge that the people I engage with on social media have.

Many professionals confirm my belief that nurturing relationships and solid trusting relationships are essential if we are to positively impact the behaviour and outcomes for our students. Students with social-emotional needs struggle to express themselves and it is educators who need to understand and support these students through the implementation of empathetic and non-judgmental approaches.

In their Adoption and Fostering podcast, Al Coates and Scott Casson-Rennie interviewed Ruth Whiteside. They engaged with Ruth discussing the need to identify patterns of behaviour and how to use this information to build Emotional Intelligence (EQ). (If you have some spare time I would recommend listening to the interview).

According to Ruth, who is a former teacher, trainer and life coach guru, we need to talk about and understand the principles of EQ. Ruth believes that unless “we can understand the need to change behaviour to achieve a different outcome” we will never be able to support the students in our care.

Throughout the podcast, the importance of relationships is highlighted. It really resonated with me when the podcast participants discussed the need to understand their own behaviour in a given situation. Although the discussions pertained to situations around adoption and fostering the analysis and the approaches used could easily be applied to the situation regarding social-emotional learning. I particularly related to the need for self-awareness.

Self-awareness can enable us to then be in a good position to recognise behaviours and unpack the emotions in our students. Identifying our own patterns of behaviour and triggers can provide information for us to use as the building block of our response to behaviour in others. When we are observing students who exhibit challenging behaviour a valuable starting point would be to ask ourselves,

What was I doing as the adult, in that moment?

In what way might my behaviour have impacted this outcome?

By analysing the answers to those questions we can highlight our role in the outcome. This can then allow us the chance to influence the outcome positively in the future. The ability to approach challenging behaviour from a different perspective can avoid confrontation but this will all depend on the relationship which we have with the individual student.

It is our job to ensure that we invest the time and energy required to establish a positive, trusting relationship with our students, particularly in the case of students who exhibit challenging behaviour. Often those students have experienced negative responses to their behaviour in the past. This experience will then influence the response that they will expect from you. In the words of Elly Chapple, it is your job to “flip the narrative” and help them see a different response.

As educators, we have the opportunity to make a difference. We are in a position to show empathy and understanding to our students. The standpoint of many educators is that students are there to be taught by adults and do what they are told. This is not my belief. I believe that where educators experience challenging behaviour first hand they must enter into a co-regulation partnership. By this I mean we must work together with our student to identify their emotions, validate them and through the modelling of our own behaviour set them up for better outcomes in the future. This goes back to the idea of building their emotional intelligence and particularly growth in the ability to self-regulate.

We do not build emotional intelligence by reacting to challenging behaviour in the moment.

We do not build emotional intelligence through sanctions when emotions are high.

And, we do not build emotional intelligence through punishment.

We can build emotional intelligence if we show empathy and understanding.

We can build emotional intelligence by valuing the emotions of our students and providing the physical or mental space for them to repair.

If we can provide authentic opportunities for learning to take place then we will see growth in the ability to self-regulate and different outcomes will be the result.


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