May has come to a close

May has come to a close and the mud is providing the Equine Teachers with an extra layer to cater for the colder weather and lots of extra brushing and combing. Oh! How they love all the attention.

Recently I have been updating the HEART™ files and the very experience has raised a great deal of memories. Over the years, we’ve experienced all types of children, most of whom have exhibited ‘challenging behaviour’. The majority of children who come to me have suffered from neglect of one sort or another, and funnily enough that is something I find relatively easy to understand.

When parents have addictions to drink or drugs, or suffer from mental problems, they are obviously in no fit state to care for their children properly and look after their needs in a way they might be able to if they could overcome their problems.

This kind of parenting is not purposefully cruel in the way that actual physical and sexual abuse is cruel – it is a side effect of a different problem. The ideal outcome is that a child will be returned to its parents once the factors that caused the neglect, such as addiction, have been remedied.

A child who has suffered from neglect will have had a miserable time and can arrive here in a very troubled state. They can be full of brashness and bravado, which is usually a disguise for a complete lack of self-esteem. They can often be out and out naughty, as a result of having no boundaries or parental guidance at home, and as a way of seeking attention.

The anger and resentment can stem from the unpredictable nature of life at home, were nothing was ever certain. Would mum be too drunk to function today? Would dad be spaced out or violent? Where the borders between who was the adult and who was the child, and who was caring for whom, were often blurred. They may try to destroy things, or steal, or be manipulative and self-seeking. To be honest, when you know what some of them have had to put up with in their short lives, who can blame them?

The way that I’ve found is usually best with children from this kind of background is fairly simple: I provide stability and a positive environment in which good behaviour is rewarded with praise. Most children desire approval and want to be liked, and most are able to unlearn negative behaviour patterns and accept different ones when they realise how much better and easier life is with new order.

For many of them, a regular routine provides a blessed relief to the chaos and unpredictability of life at home and school, and they soon respond to a calm, positive environment where they know certain things will happen at certain times. Something as simple as knowing for sure when and where the next meal is coming from can provide an anchor for troubled children who have only ever known uncertainty and disappointment. Routine is safe; it is possible to get things right inside a routine and getting things right is lovely when it means being praised, approved of and rewarded.

So why am I telling you this? Mainly because there are a lot of schools, teachers, social workers and families who do not understand that emotional healing and challenging behaviours take time to heal, there is no timetable there are no quick fixes.

When people ask me “how many sessions does the child need?” My answer is however long it takes! We teach children maths and we teach children maths, so how come we don’t teach them about being positive, to feel confident, to focus on all the little things they do well, that we all make mistakes and a full life is a life is filled with mistakes we can learn from.

The best way of changing any behaviour is by being a role model for the change you want to see in your children.

I have a tool to share with you, it is the 10 rule. If the person you are dealing with is a 9 then you must take control of your emotions and be a 1. At the HEART™ programme the week before last, I introduced the 10 rule in one of the sessions. A horse was behaving like a 10, so I walked away and said I will be back when he calms down. There was no logic sense to go there and also be a 10, which would end up a 20 and a disaster, two creatures out of control, shouting and angry. Sound familiar!

The children asked me if I had given in to the horse. No I have not given up on the horse, I was allowing the horse to calm down and own his own behaviour, and it is the horses’ problem and I had nothing to do with it.

This week before I had a chance to speak one of the boys announced that he had used the 10 rule at home. “I had just got home from school and mum started shouting, swearing and carrying on, she was at least an 8, so I went outside until she calmed down, I was being a 2. After a while I went back inside and told mum about the 10 rule.

The 10 rule works on all occasions and situations, you only have to do it.

Arohanui & God Bless

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