tradecraft…boundaries (part III)

boundaries in structured settings — an example (for professional youth workers):

in settings like schools, juvenile rehabilitation centers, faith-based organizations, summer camps, etc…professionals have the luxury of being guided by state laws and organizational policies in boundary setting…at the same time, depending on the individual group plan within a structured system, the boundaries may look very different:

different programs = different expectations & consequences

student/teacher classroom scenario:

expectation: no talking in class (when the instructor is presenting–unless we’re in a discussion, of course)

consequence: if you disrupt the class by constant talking you can a) be moved to another seat; b) be moved to the clas program; c) be given ISS

note: the clas program is an option at our school; it is a ‘intermediate removal action’ — where the student is removed from the classroom and sent to the clas program room (near the front office)…typically, for only an hour or two – it’s the step we use before ISS (ISS stands for ‘in-school suspension’ which is an entire day stay) –“b” and “c” can be implemented if “consequence a” doesn’t make a dent in the behavior…and the student continues to exhibit disruptive behavior that interferes with the learning process…

here’s a pattern/pathway i’ve followed before…

john commits a boundary violation: john talks loudly about the great time he had at a party over the weekend and disrupts a lesson; his talking distracts other students and pulls them into his story… 

me (response = a choice is offered):  john, would you rather stop talking and continue to sit by your friends or continue talking and move to this seat (near the front of the class)???*

john: stop talking, i guess…

me: ok, let’s move on then…

[a few minutes later…]

john repeats the same boundary violation: talks in class and disrupts a lesson

me (response/action = consequence): i say, “john, your talking is interrupting my teaching–please move to this seat”**

note: i didn’t say, “who do you think you are? you never learn, do you, john?! i can’t stand you–move over here”

*importantly…offering choices can be an extremely valuable thing to do within the “expectation-consequence” scheme…doing so, puts the ball back in their court, where they have some power over ‘the outcome’ & can decide on a course of action–though, all choices/options are ones that you are alright with (as the authority figure) — in other words, the only options on the table are the ones that can get what you want, what you expect…as far as boundaries go…offering choices also keeps things from “getting heated” or “escalating” — nobody likes a tyrant 🙂

**the response that i gave here was the right one…because it focuses on the behavior–what the student did, not who the student is …the response that “i didn’t say”, on the other hand, would’ve been wrong…because it makes the issue personal, confrontational, and (often) an “instant battle”…in fact, taking that tact may very well escalate the situation…by making it about who john is as a person and not about john’s behavior-his talking in class…not what we want to be doing as professionals…

anyways, let’s say that…john ‘behaves’ for the rest of the class period

the next day i might allow him to go back to his original seat (i might even give him “a carrot” in the middle of a consequence …or thereafter…and let him know that he may be able to return to his original seat tomorrow if he can handle his new location for the rest of the day)~

note: in this scenario, i didn’t keep giving the student choices and choices and choices and choices and choices or keep doing the ask, ask, ask, ask, ask thing–which, honestly–doesn’t do a damn bit of good–but, some people go that route in these situations…usually, they are new and inexperienced…and often…they are unsure, afraid or lacking confidence in their authority (or, they want to be seen as ‘cool’ or they want to be ‘friends’ with the kids–one of my least favorite incarnations of a ‘professional youth worker’)…so, if you give an expectation for behavior…it’s really important to follow through (consistently) with the known/stated consequence–pull the trigger, people!–in doing so, you will gain the respect of the kids in your charge and there will be no limits on what you can accomplish together; if you, on the other hand, give an expectation for behavior and don’t follow through with a known/stated consequence–then, not only will you lose the respect of the kids…but, it will become increasingly difficult to manage their behaviors…therefore, making anything you try to accomplish with them much more difficult, if not impossible–

consistent follow through is key in ‘boundaries work’ in structured settings–it shows them (the kid who is ‘acting out’ and the rest of the group) that you’re “not playin'” and “mean business”… 

tradecraft…boundaries (part II)

definition, purpose & implementation

  • what do we mean we talk about “boundaries”???

“boundaries” is a euphemism for rules…so, a good working definition is: boundaries = rules for appropriate behavior

  • why do we set boundaries???

to keep an individual and others safe; to teach and instill character and pro-social skills…

  • how do “boundaries” work??? how do we implement them???

in the most basic sense, boundaries work best when you give kids expectations (what you expect from them, what their behavior should look like according to the rules of  a specific setting or situation) and consequences (disciplinary actions for violating a boundary or don’t meet an expectation)…this approach works best in structured settings when you are working with kids and you want to be “clear and upfront with them from the get-go” (about what you expect) and provide consistent follow through with consequences when it doesn’t happen…

it can be a bit different ‘at home’ or in parenting…where boundaries may be (especially in early childhood) more nuanced, organic, on the spot, in the moment, etc–that’s not to say they are any less important in this setting…in fact, i would argue that boundary setting at home is one of the most important things parents can do for their children…anyways…when we move from early childhood to elementary-age to teenage years…imposing specific ‘expectation-consequence ground rules’–with regard to certain behaviors–will need to happen more often…

  • what are some examples of boundaries (from real-life)???

this blog is loaded with examples of boundaries, boundary violations/challenging behaviors, appropriate responses and consequences…in the next few posts, we’ll take a look at some more examples of boundaries–from both the “work-job” and the “home front”…

but, before we do…it’s important to note that, like the other posts on tradecraft, setting and enforcing boundaries is a skill…you don’t just wake up one day and know how to navigate this kind of thing…along with that, this is not something that should be done in a ‘fly by night’ kind of manner–good boundary setting (and enforcing) is something that requires thought, practice, reflection and adaptation…additionally, this skill is one that is very much connected to the tradecraft we’ve covered already…in fact, it is closely tied to the skills voice and non-verbals–which included, ‘how to talk to kids’, ‘deflectors’, tone, word choice, volume, body language, body positioning, gestures and facial experessions…all of these things matter–big time–when we’re giving expectations and (especially) when we’re giving consequences to kids…what kind of verbal and non-verbal messages are we transmitting?! are we saying what we want to say?!

the big question is: when we are setting boundariesare we doing so with basic human dignity and respect?!

like the other skills we’ve acquired for herding cats, boundary setting skills can develop and sharpen over time…with practice…luckily, there’s no shortage of opportunities to fine-tune these skills 🙂

 

 

tradecraft…boundaries (part I)

boundaries: preface

one of the best things that an adult…who is working with kids (and especially, an adult who is raising kids)…can do–to bring up responsible young people–is to give their toddlers, children, and teens boundaries…even their ‘tweens’ in a lot cases–especially, when you consider that the pre-frontal cortex isn’t fully developed until people are on their way past ‘legal adulthood’ as defined by state laws…you know the part of the brain i’m talking about…the part that controls impulsive behavior and the ability to make good decisions 🙂

in my opinon, all kids need boundaries…expecting a kid to function positively and responsibly in the world without good boundaries is like expecting a house to stand without a solid foundation…it’s just not gonna happen, folks…

one of my favorite gems on this topic comes from child and family expert, dr. david walsh:

“it’s a kid’s job to test limits, it’s our job (responsible parents and other adults) to set limits–in saying ‘no’ to our kids…we are (hopefully) teaching them to say ‘no’ to themselves (some day)” (walsh, 2014)…

importantly, one of the single most important ‘trade skills’ in working effectively with young people is establishing good and reasonable boundaries for kids to know and follow…i mean, how can any teacher, counselor, para, social worker, coach, youth leader, juvenile justice worker, or parent instruct a young person if that young person is doing what they want to do when they want to do it…with no regard for anyone else around them?!

this is a part of instructing our youth that we need to return to wholeheartedly and fearlessly in our society, in america…i would argue that there’s never been a more important time for us to get back to the ‘world of boundaries’ than right now…because it’s something we’ve strayed away from…and we can see the results reflected in how young people see themselves and act in the world today…it’s not a pretty sight

so, with that…we begin a new series on boundaries…

stay tuned…

[i would like give a special ‘shout out’ to family friend and proud parent of two, rachel s.–who called for some special attention to this subject back when i wrote the post titled, ‘know your role’–so, while it’s a bit late in coming…this series is for you, sister! cheers!]

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