People can experience exactly the same thing and yet, react in totally different ways. The perceptions that people have of a specific event are often seen differently through as many sets of eyes as have witnessed the event. Our perceptions are defined by how we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to see certain situations.
The Conscious Discipline Program acknowledges that there will be upsets in life and peace comes when we choose, through our power of perception, to let things unfold rather than trying to control. Conscious Discipline uses the term Q-TIP, “Quit Taking It Personally.” It is our choice to take “something” personally or let that “something” go. It is our choice to see a situation with acceptance or judgment. When bad stuff happens, we can “choose” to perceive the situation as a learning tool and apply the skill of composure rather than react negatively.
Composure is the ability to remain or regain our calm in difficult situations. It goes right along with Perception, as we have more of a tendency to lose composure when we do take things personally. Authentic composure comes when we stop demanding that certain events must occur and/or that people must act in an expected or prescribed ways. The benefit of composure is that we are able to access the higher levels of our brain, even as we deal with conflict. Composure allows us to see things from others’ points of view, problem solve and communicate clearly.
Conscious Discipline recognizes that some children require assistance to gain composure when their perceptions do not match expected events; hence the Safe Place. However, the safe place is not what we would traditionally refer to as “time out” It is voluntary choice for a student to go to the Safe Place. Here they learn how to use the skill of composure and revise their perceptions during a calming process. The power of perception and the skill of composure are the focus of the Safe Place. A safe place uses times of upset as teaching moments where children can acquire skills to independently change their reaction to situations they find difficult.
The Safe Place becomes the place where children go to regulate themselves. The structure assumes that children want to be successful, feel like they belong and are safe. On the flip side, Conscious Discipline identifies that when children feel powerless, they may withdraw or act out even though they really want to feel in control of themselves. When children can’t do this on their own, the space is there to provide a structure to achieve this. It is a learning center for children to access their abilities to change their inner state from upset to composed. They are taught the steps to move from agitation to calm, the ultimate goal. Students strengthen their abilities to deal with conflict positively.
The safe place provides a specific location in the classroom. It is often located in a cozy corner of the classroom. There may be a big pillow, a bean bag chair or some other kind of comfy chair to cuddle into. It may also have stress balls, blankets and or stuffed animals. Other items are also used to assist the child in the “calming, moving forward” process, as they work through their upset. The intent is to create a relaxing space for children to be comfortable in and remediate their upset.
In a Conscious Discipline classroom, students will have already been taught deep breathing techniques as a tool to access the calming parts of their brains. When they make the choice to use the safe place, they are encouraged to utilize these deep breathing strategies as one of their calming strategies. Students are also taught a process whereby they identify their mood and actively choose a new behaviour to help them move on from their upset. Children apply these skills at various speeds with the intent that they will be able to try again in the classroom.
As adults, we too must develop and internalize composure skills before we can expect them from and teach them to children. We must become aware of our own triggers, access a calming internal dialogue and replace habitual reactions with new ones. Upsets come when there is resistance to what is happening in front of us. Stressful situations have the ability to throw us into the lower centers of our brains where we only access survival skills. It becomes easy to make a mountain out of a molehill through our perceptions. Conscious Discipline teaches adults and children how to get past the “mountains and molehills” and get on with our day.
In the Conscious Discipline program, developed by Dr. Becky Bailey, the Safe Place is a self-regulation structure. It embodies a philosophy of creating successful learning environments for children. Learning is a higher order brain function and a stressed child is not learning but is operating from the lowest centers of the brain. The Safe Place is a calming process we have adopted at our school to teach emotional control and self-regulation; to return students to the higher centers of their brain so they can learn. The hope is that when they have a space to provide a calming and teaching structure, their internal desire for self-control, belonging and competence will motivate them to make positive decisions.
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