Psycho-Education for Teachers: Understanding the Child Guidance Process Part 1-Definition, Elements, and Steps

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Kottler and Kottler (2000) define the child guidance or counseling approach as those interactional skills that teachers need to relate with children in a helping capacity. Simply put, child guidance skills are helping skills. According to Kottler and Kottler, teachers equipped with basic helping strategies like listening and responding therapeutically to students gain better clarity of children’s feelings, better understanding of their motives, and greater resolve in following through a plan to change children’s behavior. The authors conclude that adding child guidance or helping skills to any teacher’s educational repertoire helps the teacher create better relationships with students in a shorter period of time, improve all relationships, including personal ones, as well as becoming more influential (i.e. being able to persuade) in interacting with students (p. 3). In addition, state Kottler and Kottler, child guidance or helping skills will be critical in helping teachers resolve discipline problems and in conflict resolution, enabling teachers to move troubled students from a stage of confusion to some sort of problem resolution, or at least some degree of understanding. Students in general and special education classrooms who are dealing with challenges such as low self-esteem, poor peer relations, deficits in social problem solving, poor self-control, low self-awareness, and habitually disruptive behaviors are in

we do not guide and discipline at the same time. and encourages children while they resolve their own socio-emotional issues. Teachers proficient in child guidance skills find resilience and self-motivation in the psycho-educational principles that students do their behavior but they are not their behavior and all students can learn to self-manage their emotions and behaviors. The teacher should remain open to the child’s lead.need of socio-emotional support and interventions way beyond what any extra academic remediation can provide. for example. we chat for a minute. the guidance process is kept apart from disciplining the child. 2. challenges. Using the child guidance approach. and guiding the student in using his strengths and abilities in resolving his socioemotional needs. An essential role in child guidance is to help students see things clearly and rationally when troubling feelings and social problems are present. More specifically. the teacher works on recruiting the student in the process of behavioral change. if the child chats. As . For students with recurrent -and in some cases severe. From Meier and Davis we adapted to school age children the following list. we build trust and rapport. child guidance skills are skills in relating with students in a helping capacity that supports. Child Guidance Elements 1. that is. Concentrating on rapport and empathy. When we connect emotionally with a troubled and/or habitually disruptive student. teachers can have the therapeutic impact that makes a difference in the lives and behaviors of children struggling socio-emotionally.behavior problems. With the proper training and psycho-educational skills. Developing a teacher-student working alliance where we motivate and engage the student in resolving the emotional and/or behavioral issues interfering with her learning. The psycho-educational teacher sees habitually disruptive students as decision makers who have reasons for their choices. helping the child see the costs or negatives and benefits or positives of his behavioral choices. Meier and Davis (1997) identify several elements that need to be present in this helping process. the teacher conveys the willingness to understand the reasons behind the student’s disruptive behavior without judging or blaming the child for the disruptive behavior. the teacher helps the student in helping himself or herself. and then we return to the issue or concern at hand. Making personal contact by communicating and connecting emotionally with the student.

As the authors state. and b. The authors identify two methods of pacing: a. Processing or discussing with the student his feelings about the event . we can confront. not the teacher’s job. Pacing is simply the stage where we let the child know that we are listening and that we understand the child’s concern. To be helpful and therapeutic. if we support the student. confronting is a way of telling the student. except when summarizing. 6. but pointing out discrepancies between the child’s goals and the child’s behavior. Speaking briefly. 1997). Meier and Davis state that troubled individuals may be unaware of their feelings and experiences until they hear a restatement or paraphrase of the content. we do not confront. It is the student’s job to talk. When pacing. the child wants to have friends (goal). keeping in mind that we confront a student in the same proportion that we support the student. 4. As Shertzer and Stone explain (in Meier and Davis. The authors recommend communicating using one or two sentences at a time. without any judgment or interpretation. Pacing the student or following along in terms of the student’s expressed concern and feelings. alliances do not work if the child lacks motivation or we demand and force the student to change. 3.Meier and Davis say. confronting does not mean opposing the child. listening is all that the child needs. if we never support the student. Restatement of content. Reflection of feeling or recognizing the child’s feelings and subsequently mirroring the feelings. In other words. Sometimes. According to Shertzer and Stone. 5. we do not add to the child’s thinking and we give no direction to the child. the teacher restates the child’s concern. something that she will not accomplish if she continues bullying other children (behavior). or noticing the child’s thoughts and restating the content of those thoughts. For example. Using benign confrontation. “Stop a minute! Look at what you are doing” (p. the teacher should always talk less than the student talks. we must help the student process his behavior. 11). in pacing. If we expect the student to change his behavior.

As the authors state. What were you feeling when he cursed? 7.” or “I don’t know about you. As the child talks. which is the overt topic of the conversation. and acting-out students. and model a variety of feelings.g. we help students having difficulty experiencing or recognizing feelings.(emotional and behavioral issues).” When we define. we should talk with the student.  Student: I punched Justin because he cursed me. teaching troubled students to pay attention to their feelings increases their motivation to change their behavior. it is not the same as content. but I am feeling irritated right now. “I feel _____ (e. and behaves. In other words. we influence the child’s belief system and persuade the child to change. To help children increase awareness of their feelings. influencing the way the child thinks. 8. fear. using child guidance techniques and procedures. Meier and Davis advice that we focus on the Big Four: anger. anger-prone. This is what Kottler and Kottler (2000) call consciousness raising. angry) because _____ (e.g. for example. or promoting more self-understanding and self-discovery by .g.  Process:  Teacher: The teacher focuses on the student’s feelings. and we reassure students that all feelings are okay. from troubling to challenging). The purpose of the child guidance or helping approach is to initiate changes in how the child perceives the event (e. 2-19). explain. a popular technique in the clinical setting is to use our own feelings as a guide. and joy. sadness.” According to the authors. Focusing on feelings. Teach children to use the sentence. we share our emotional reaction to the child’s situation. Seems that it is difficult for you to talk about this. not to the student (pp. For example.  Content: The student’s belief that the other child’s behavior caused the problem. feels. 9. I did not get the ball when we were playing basketball). Learning to recognize and express feelings in socially acceptable ways is the greatest challenge of troubled. “I feel sad when I hear that. helping students recognize these feelings and the reasons for them. Individualizing the child guidance process to adapt the rules and techniques to each particular child.

13. not your issue. according to Kottler and Kottler. and providing opportunities so that the child practices the new behaviors in ways that are more positive. Use coached dialogue. focused concentration and nonjudgmental. Increase the child’s awareness of the world. Child Guidance Steps Kottler and Kottler (2000) identify five main steps in the child guidance or helping process: Step 1: Assessment or identification of the present complaint. 14. listening. so that the child feels better about herself and her choices no matter what the outcome is. Provide task facilitation. and clarifying the content of what the child says. It is the student’s decision. and people deal with the same issues or concerns for the rest of their lives. focusing. Child guidance or helping skills that we use to assess are attending. Even when you give good advice. A problem implies that there is one solution. but also of himself in relation to others. From Kottler and Kottler.” that is. 17. Through reflection.altering the way the child sees himself. Define success as making an effort and trying your best. Slip into a “helping mode. others. We are dealing with concerns. we get an idea of what is happening. encouraging the child to try new and positive ways of behaving. 11. not the teacher’s decision. however. Stay as neutral and as accepting as you can. responding to content. Do not try to do too much. and the world. 15. Step 2: Exploration or “digging deeper. 16. 12. and observing. you are reinforcing the belief that the child cannot make her own personal decisions. reflecting on the child’s feelings. giving feedback on strategies that the child might try. During the assessment phase. helping the child articulate what is most important to him. we help the child identify what is bothering him and collect the important background information. not problems. it is the child’s behavioral or emotional issue. we add the following elements to the original list: 10. questioning. we help . Do not give advice. most personal issues have no single answer or just the right solution. probing.” Child guidance skills that we apply here are reflecting feelings. We accomplish this by asking questions. and empathy.

Understanding the hidden pay-offs of self-defeating behaviors.” 4. As Kottler and Kottler state. the benefits of her recurrent angry feelings for an anger-prone child or the benefits of acting-out behaviors for a chronically disruptive student.” 3. debate. “Sometimes I can be…” 5. how embarrassed or anxious the child is feeling. The action step is where we help children translate what they know and understand into a plan that will get them what they want. challenging. The action step divides into two sub-steps: . 7. for example. we help the child understand why and how the problem developed. In this step. “I was not aware that I demand to be the leader every time we work in cooperative groups. interpretation. for example. 23). Our empathy helps the child reach the hidden nuances of the experience.” (p. According to Kottler and Kottler. and how strongly he wishes he could feel less vulnerable or behave courageously.g. “When I cursed Mr.. with sensitivity and understanding. Constructing an alternative view of personal reality. the child’s role in creating her difficulties. self-disclosing. Step 3: Understanding. e. the deeper the exploration of feelings. understanding and insight are useless (p.g. 6. e. In other words.. I was really mad at Justin. Becoming aware of deep feelings or “I did not know I felt…” 2. 23). Learning to be vigilant about certain behaviors. Grasping unconscious desires. and giving information. what the child is doing to sabotage improvement. for example. Owning denied parts of self. and replace the irrational and self-defeating thoughts that maintain her troubled feelings and negative behaviors. The authors identify seven kinds of personal insights that we can help students develop: 1. Helping the student identify.the child clarify what he is thinking and feeling. we help the child explore the depth of his feelings. how much the child misses his old school. Step 4: Action. This step requires child guidance skills such as confrontation. the more profound the insight. without action to change behavior. “It is not so much that I’m a failure as I sometimes don’t end up finishing what I start. and what topics or themes appear repeatedly. Evans. for example.

J. CA: Brooks/Cole. Here. problem solving. Counseling skills for teachers. helping the child define what each goal means. that we can demonstrate our understanding of their experience. and take note of what the child still needs to do. Meier. Sub-step 2: Generating alternatives by helping the child create a list of alternative behaviors.Sub-step 1: Goals establishment. narrows possibilities. narrowing the alternatives to those that seem more realistic. Thousand Oaks. As a final step. roleplaying. & Davis. Step 5: Evaluation.. summarizing. Pacific Grove. R. Third Edition. The elements of counseling. breaking bigger goals into smaller goals or smaller steps. During the evaluation step. S. (1997). & Kottler. child guidance is the process where the teacher systematically observes the student’s behavior. and finally helps the student take action. Kottler and Kottler (2000) describe the main job of teachers in counseling or helping capacities as one of showing students that we are a concerned and skilled listener.. The child guidance skills that we apply in this action step are goal setting. (2000). CA: Corwin Press. we assess what the child has accomplished. and decision-making. we apply the child guidance skills of questioning. E. T. and supporting. A. 26). . and that we are someone on whom students can count (p. References Kottler. In summary. we need to determine the extent to which the child has reached the goal. and finally. asking the child for a commitment to follow through on the plan. reinforcing. S. and if necessary.

Persuasive Discipline: Using Power Messages and Suggestions to Influence Children Toward Positive Behavior. and educational diagnostician. includes ten years teaching emotionally disturbed/behaviorally disordered children and four years teaching students with a learning disability or mental retardation. Carmen has taught at all grade levels. To download free the eGuide. The Psycho-Educational Teacher. Her classroom background. The Psycho-Educational Teacher. Carmen is the author of 60+ books and articles in psycho-education and in alternative teaching techniques for low-achieving students. You can read the complete collection of articles on Scribd. and in teaching students with learning or behavior problems. Carmen is an expert in the application of behavior management strategies.About the Author Carmen Y. . in New York City and her native Puerto Rico. resource room teacher. Carmen has a bachelor’s degree in psychology (University of Puerto Rico) and a master’s degree in special education with a specialization in emotional disorders (Long Island University. has more than twenty years of experience as a self-contained special education teacher. She also has extensive graduate training in psychology (30+ credits). or her blog. Brooklyn: NY). visit Carmen’s blog. from kindergarten to post secondary. Reyes.

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