3 Relational Strategies for Decreasing Problem Behaviors

May 8, 2012

Preventing Behaviors

“The next thing I knew, he was trying to kick and bite me.”  It happened so suddenly and without notice that it caught Mary totally offguard.  “I didn’t know exactly what to do but I knew that I needed to keep everyone safe,” she added.  “It felt like the longest 15-minutes I’ve ever experienced in special needs ministry!”

It’s not uncommon for scenarios like this to play themselves out on any given Sunday in faith communities who provide a special needs ministry.  Sometimes children with special needs will display very challenging behaviors.  The moments during those behaviors could be described as “stressful” and “tense” for everyone involved.  If you are a special needs ministry volunteer or a parent to a acting-out child with special needs then I suspect that you could add a few more words to this list.

The problem with most approaches to minimizing challenging behaviors in special needs ministry is that the recommended solutions are often isolated strategies that only seek to “manage” behaviors.  Some examples of isolated strategies that are commonly used are token systems, time-out chair/area, positive reinforcement, loss of privileges, or a safe spot, to name a few.  The intent for many of these strategies is focused on producing:

  • Compliance
  • Control
  • Obedience

As a nationally certified senior-level Crisis Prevention Instructor, it’s been my observation that rarely is any attention given to how these isolated strategies fit into a larger systematic, structured process for positively supporting kids with challenging behaviors.  In addition, rarely is any attention given to the relational strategies that can constructively de-escalate crisis behaviors.  Three examples of relational strategies are:

  • Paraverbal communiation
  • Social exchange theory
  • Kinesics

When used properly, these relational strategies help to establish safe boundaries, strengthen relationships, and create a climate of peace.  I’d like share with you how an understanding of some of these relational strategies, embedded within a structured process, can help you to de-escalate challenging behaviors without sacrificing relationships.  If you’re interested in learning some effective relational strategies for minimizing crisis behaviors and reducing the potential for physically acting-out then here’s one of our Special Friends Ministry on-demand training videos:

Make sure that you subscribe to our blog or click “like” on our Facebook page to be notified when the next training video is posted!

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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