Using emotional literacy to support positive behaviour choices & self-esteem in the classroom with non-typically developing pupils

With non-typically developing children we can never presume that they know what they could do, how they could act and what the outcome for their behaviour choices will be. Emotional literacy provides this information in a nurturing way so that the child does not feel pressured or inferior for not knowing. Using very clear emotive language and clear expectations, young people can recognise their role in their behaviour and hopefully learn to choose more appropriate outcomes.

Here is an example of a dialogue that promotes emotional literacy, clear expectations and high standards of the young person involved. “John it is not okay to run around the classroom as you could hurt yourself and other people. Could you sit down please (allow for take up time), John if you choose to not sit down then I will have no choice but to give you an S1 (allow for take up time). I know you can do this John, you are a good kid and I know you know right from wrong (allow for take up time). Thank you John I am really impressed with the choice that you made then, well done, it shows that my expectations of you are right. Thank you”.

John might choose not to sit on his chair in which case the conversation could go, “John are you okay today? Would you like to come and talk to me for a minute as I know sitting in your chair is something that you can do and I really don’t want to give you an S1 (allow take up time). Okay John, I can see that today is maybe difficult for you, but I have rules to follow too so unless you sit down in the next 10 seconds then you will receive an S1. You have got this time to think about it and as to whether it is worth it. Remember you have the choice. If after 10 seconds John has not made the right choice, “I am really sorry John but in this situation you have got an S1. I hope you understand that I didn’t want to give this as much as you wanted to receive it. I am sorry that it ended this way but I am hoping that you can get over this now and get back down to you work”.

These dialogues provide lots of information that sometimes we take for granted that pupils know. That is how we use emotional literacy with clear expectations of whats and whys. The great thing about this approach is that it becomes easier the more natural we become with it but more so the child learns the whats and whys, becomes more confident the choices available to them, and is modelled positive behaviour in conflicting situations.

Remember, children will forget the things that you say to them but they will never forget the way that you made them feel.