When a seventh grader randomly told me to ef off and gave me some superlatives, I became curious. My unexpected “Ok. Would you like to go for a walk” response disrupted her “attack.” She was expecting me to give her big feels but I didn’t. Instant confusion followed with a hair flip and a timid “ok.”
After I listened to her vent about the vice principal and how much she hated her and blah blah blah, she welcomed me into her story, the true story. By just listening and calmly redirecting her language use, she mellowed down and somewhat dropped her verbal attack.
She requested to see the counselor after taking a short sensory break. Her kinetic sand manipulation and sassy reflection led her to being ready to share the cause of her anger.
And it wasn’t the vice principal. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t the poor kids receiving her targeted hurtful words. It was what she was carrying into school and had yet to process. She truly has legitimate reason to be angry. Yet she was alone in her anger. Big mad needs to be processed through or it will go somewhere- often misdirected which only creates secondary consequences.
Sharing this experience with this student reminded me once again- no child (or adult really) wants to feel the big mad feels. Therefore it is our responsibility to be curious before furious. It is also our responsibility to create boundaries to guide healing and less intense big mad responses. Not eliminate big mad, but better process big mad. And guess what?!? The starting point is you and I. As adults (25 and up) we have a fully developed prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain that helps us with decision making and self control.) Therefore it is our role to model in our language, tone and body position how to respond to big mad and big feels. As we demonstrate through our response to big mad, big mad can visit with less intensity, frequency and duration.
In conclusion, our students come to us with unsaid challenges, new beginnings and growing brains. It is our gift to meet them where they are and love them through it. Through curiosity, compassion, healthy healing boundaries and restored hope, we will can lessen big mad and come together to support each other through hard things.