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1. Establish realistic and clear rules that are consistently and fairly upheld in powerful and respectful ways. Set priorities and be flexible. Change the rules when it makes sense. Be sure everyone understands the boundaries. Model following the rules. People in your care learn more from what you do than what you say.

2. Split your attention. Keep your radar on. Avoid tunnel vision. Stay aware of what each person in your care is doing as well as of what is happening around you as well as of how you are acting at that moment.

3. Don’t take negative behavior personally. People say and do upsetting things for reasons that seem important to them. Protect your feelings by using your Trash Can, your Emotional Raincoat, and other Emotional Safety techniques. Viewing everyone’s behavior with compassion can help you to let go of anger or hurt.

4. Look for the reasons underlying negative behavior. What function does this behavior serve for this individual? What is the cause? Expressing disappointment? Relieving anxiety? Wanting attention?

5. Find positive ways to meet the underlying needs of negative behavior. Anticipate, plan for, and redirect negative behavior that causes problems sooner rather than later. When does it happen? During transitions? When you are busy doing something else? Be ready to take charge with a positive alternative.

6. Notice and manage your own emotional triggers, both positive and negative. Get centered using Calm Down Power. Separate negative language/behavior from useful information with the Screen Technique.

7. Use your “AND” Power to honor emotions while managing behavior. Acknowledge upset feelings, express caring, AND set a boundary while giving options. For example, “I understand that this is upsetting for you. I am sorry. I care about you a lot. AND even though this is not a choice right now, here are some other choices that would be possible.” Try to redirect in a firm and caring way if someone is too agitated to listen.

8. Practice and review Kidpower Safety Signals. Establish a common language about safety so that everyone is on the same page. Use social stories and positive practice to rehearse using these skills in different situations.

9. Find respectful language to address unsafe behavior with others while not shaming anyone, especially someone in your care. For example, “We forgot our safety plan for a moment.”

10. Stop problems as soon as you see them coming rather than waiting until they get bigger. Avoid the Wishing Technique. Don’t get trapped by the Illusion of Safety. Take action sooner rather than later.

11. Stay in charge. As someone responsible for the safety and well-being of others, model being a powerful and respectful leader. Take charge of your own behavior. Be prepared to manage any behavior that might become emotionally or physically dangerous. Get help if physically dangerous behavior becomes beyond your control.

12. Don’t go it alone. Find people and resources you trust and ask for help when things get hard. Involve others in person, by phone, and online to create Safety Teams and find positive ways to work out problems.

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Published: April 13, 2020   |   Last Updated: April 13, 2020

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.