The Black Wall St. Times Editor-in-Chief Nehemiah Frank sat down for an honest conversation with T’erra Estes, founder and director of the nonprofit Teach Not Punish. The organization provides a support system that empowers families and professionals by offering educational opportunities that inspire positive behavioral change in homes and the workplace.
BWST: How does T’erra Estes deal with unruly children?
T’erra Estes: Well, there’s no blanket answer to this question. There are many variables to consider. Whenever I have an encounter with an unruly child, I immediately think about why this child could be acting out based on previous experiences, if any. I think about what could have triggered the child or if there are any precipitating factors associated with the behavior.
Depending on the child’s level of behavior, I think about how I can empower them at that moment. Usually, empowerment starts with empathy. So, that’s where I begin. I’ve learned that empathy goes a long way and is necessary in building and maintaining healthy relationships.
BWST: How do you curve bad behavior?
T’erra Estes: Similarly to the last question, my response is a judgment call based on the relationship I have with the child.
My body language usually speaks first through posturing, gestures or facial expressions. Some children know that if I gesture to settle down, then they should probably stop and think about what they’re doing.
I might be able to redirect their behavior by shaking my head, giving a look to a student, or a soft touch on the shoulder.
No matter what, I am intentional about my paraverbal communication to not trigger children, and to be predictable in a way that the child chooses to comply.
Generally, I state the expectation first, so that the child is fully aware of what he or she should be doing. I may even tell the child exactly what he or she is doing wrong, and then give the child a replacement behavior. If I have to speak privately with a child, I try to figure out how I can provide better support, state the expectation again and offer choices. I also try to provide rational for why meeting expectations are good choices for them to make. Most important, the rapport I have with the child determines the effectiveness of redirection.
BWST: Why is spanking taboo?
T’erra Estes: Spanking is taboo because it can be harsh and can have an adverse affect later in life.
When I was a young mother, I didn’t know how to discipline my child. I spanked her for anything defiant and/or disobedient. As I educated myself on the Parent-child relationship and parenting in general, I realized that some behaviors are age appropriate.
Children have to be thoroughly taught how to behave and observe how to behave over a period of time. Not only that, spanking can be harmful to the Parent-child relationship. I learned that every behavior doesn’t warrant such a consequence, and that there are natural consequences I can give my children that are more effective and less damaging to our relationship.
10 Take Aways for our interview with Mrs. Estes
- Empowerment starts with empathy.
- Gesture to settle down, then they should probably stop and think about what they’re doing.
- Be intentional about my preverbal communication to not trigger children, and to be predictable in a way that the child chooses to comply.
- Tell the child exactly what he or she is doing wrong.
- Give the child a replacement behavior.
- State expectations and offer choices.
- Provide rational for why meeting expectations are good choices for them to make.
- Children have to be thoroughly taught how to behave.
- Spanking can be harmful to the Parent-child relationship
- Every behavior doesn’t warrant such a consequence