Education

How expert T’erra Estes deals with misbehaved children

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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?

23130564_10154998991996447_1784218328621634000_nT’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.

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10 Take Aways for our interview with Mrs. Estes

  1. Empowerment starts with empathy.
  2. Gesture to settle down, then they should probably stop and think about what they’re doing.
  3. Be intentional about my preverbal communication to not trigger children, and to be predictable in a way that the child chooses to comply.
  4. Tell the child exactly what he or she is doing wrong.
  5. Give the child a replacement behavior.
  6. State expectations and offer choices.
  7. Provide rational for why meeting expectations are good choices for them to make.
  8. Children have to be thoroughly taught how to behave.
  9. Spanking can be harmful to the Parent-child relationship
  10. Every behavior doesn’t warrant such a consequence

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