The Healing Environment is a visual representation of what children need to grow and mature. It includes relationships, boundaries, adult self-control, empathy, acceptance, encouragement, and humor.
The Healing Environment looks different for students with chronic misbehavior. Children with severe emotional and behavioral concerns have different behavioral and emotional needs than children with typical behavior due to delays in emotional development. Generally, children learn from consequences when they misbehave, leading to maturity, internalized morals and values, and eventually, the need for fewer boundaries from the adults because they are managing their behavior.
What happens when children don’t learn from the consequences, and the behavior continues? Then what? When children are not taking control of their behavior, they need more support and structure in their life until they are ready to do so.
Therefore, The Healing Environment changes, as noted in the picture. Empathy, Encouragement, Acceptance, and Adult Self Control remain the same regardless of the child’s behavior. This support helps the child have a relationship with the adult as the structure and boundaries are in place, an essential component of long-term healing.
In our experience, the best approach to managing chronic misbehavior is to decrease the level of freedom and increase the structure to match the child’s emotional developmental level. This level of support is in place until the child shows they have the knowledge, experience, self-control, and judgment to handle more freedom.
As the child shows the ability to manage their behavior, the adults adjust the boundaries, which allows for more freedom and independence. However, suppose the child demonstrates they are not ready for this level of autonomy due to increased misbehavior. In that case, support and boundaries are put back in place until the child can manage their behavior independently. This structure and support meet a child’s emotional needs, providing an opportunity for healing and long-term happiness.
To learn more, watch our podcast go to The impact of Boundaries and Structure on Chronic Misbehavior or go to https://healingchildren.teachable.com/courses and watch our online training on “Healing Discipline Finding Joy in Working with Challenging Students” or “What is a Healing Environment”. You can also find more information in our book “Healing Discipline: Bringing Hope to Shattered Lives, A Guide for Educators.”