Throughout our training, we often make reference to “affirm your emotions and choose your behavior.” The bigger picture here is that as care givers we want to avoid being a trigger for the people to whom we are providing services. Easier said than done? You bet!

I’m coming off an awesome weekend of taking care of a couple of my young cousins so their mom and dad could enjoy their anniversary. Even though I talk about these things on a regular basis, I was constantly reminding myself these last two days that the behavior I was witness to from my four- and six-year old cousins was more than just “behavior.” Observing, thinking big picture, asking for clarification – it was exhausting. So, kudos to all you full-time moms and dads out there – truly tough work. More than once I had to have the internal dialogue “okay, that is very irritating, but what is happening that might cause Trey to use his behavior this way?” Or simply asking Elijah, “can you tell me what is upsetting you?” Sometimes it was even me helping them to understand, “the crying is telling me that it is time for you to get some rest.”

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has had a learning opportunity from a past experience (that’s my PC way of saying that I’ve royally screwed it up before) when I have allowed my emotions to drive my decisions. I know this weekend it would have been very easy for that to happen. Instead, I chose to take a step back and ask myself “what is he trying to tell me?” “What does this child need?” “How can I help him meet his need without having to use his behavior in this way?” and even the occasional “Nikki, don’t sweat the small stuff” and “Nikki, it’s not really winning when he is four.”

To keep from being a trigger it goes back to the basics. Know the people you are providing services to. When you detect a pattern of behavior, be more pro-active. My cousins aren’t fond of taking naps so I started talking very generally about “resting after lunch” early in the day, so it wasn’t a surprise. Is there some way to modify the task or change the environment? I tried to put as much control as possible into their hands by asking them where they wanted to rest. It seemed that by choosing the sofa instead of their bed it didn’t make it as significant to them. Requests that I could honor, I definitely tried to do so. I made an effort to explain to them the reasons behind requests that I was making of them.
We all know that it’s not always possible to remove 100% of the triggers or stimulants in people’s lives, but there is so much we can do to lessen the impact we might have.

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty