10 Essential De-escalation Tips

Every day teachers, parents and carers are faced with potentially challenging situations. Many of these are defused through skillful behaviour support. These successful resolutions will have certain common characteristics. There are some essential conditions that must exist to deescalate an incident of challenging behaviour.

If these don’t exist the only result is a child in crisis.

  • Have the best possible relationship with the child – one of my instructors likens this to an emotional bank account, you have to put in time, effort, care and attention before you can expect any interest back.

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  • Be mindful of your body language, gestures and facial expression, no threatening or intimidating gestures ever. Compliance through fear is abuse.
  • Focus on the actions of the child, not labeling the child. You are very rude.” Vs “That language is not helping”.
  • A prime focus on the initial issue – If you are trying to deescalate a situation where a child is damaging something don’t get distracted by swearing or other secondary actions.
  • Avoid an audience – A physiological escape route is vital and a lot of children will not want to back down in front of their peers. A look or comment from a passer-by can re-trigger or extend an incident that 1:1 would be coming to an end.

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  • Use space and time – If there is a deadline for the issue to be resolved by then you will be much more stressed, much more likely to over-intervene and over react. If you need someone to cover a class (if you are SLT please support your staff here.) Phone and have a script in your head: “I need help while I deal with a problem” vs “I need to spend some time listening to Dave.”.


  • One person only to speak to the child you may think you are helping but you are just outnumbering the child.


  • Make sure the child is not afraid, a scared child may comply through fear or they may lash out if they feel cornered.


  • Allow access to a quiet space to calm, no distractions and let the child come to you when they are ready.


  • Create space for an exit, a clash of wills accomplishes nothing and issues can be discussed more meaningfully when calm is restored.


These are all essential things to bear in mind when managing challenging situations. As teachers we need to do all we can to reduce the chance of our children being excluded.

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