“The OODA Loop”: De-escalating Conflict & Potentially Violent Situations

 

oakland blk minds matterWhether you work in a school setting or practically any other, conflict is almost certainly inevitable. These are times when there is an opposition of strengths between parties and principles. Unfortunately, many professionals lack some of the tools necessary for de-escalating conflict and working towards the negotiation of more positive outcomes.

Simply stated, conflict occurs when two people disagree, and often this leads to frustration which can lead to anger and if not addressed, aggression, violence and other irrational behaviors can ensue. Conflicts may turn into violence depending upon the role each participant plays. It is important, for that reason alone, to understand the principles of non-violent conflict resolution and the importance of maintaining focus on achieving a desired outcome from the conflict.

First, it must be understood that you are in charge of how you react. Attitudes must remain positive at all times while ensuring that you give the situation your full attention. Every time you communicate, verbally or nonverbally through body language, your attitude is apparent. It is best to present a professional, unbiased and positive attitude. The goal is to  redirect the other person’s behavior and generate voluntary compliance using verbal techniques.

Aggression arising from frustration is one of the prime triggers of conflict and usually happens anytime someone wants something they cannot have. Communication breakdowns, lack of adequate skills and even alcohol can be contributing factors. Regardless, the intended goal should be constant, to mitigate risk factors, and de-escalate conflict while always outcome-focused. The tactics one must employ in such situations need to be processed and implemented within a short period of time. Time is critical.

One of the best and simplest overviews of conflict resolution is ‘The OODA Loop’ developed during the Korean War. OODA stands for:

OBSERVE

ORIENTATION

DECISION and

ACTION

Begin to first observe all aspects of the situation[situation awareness] taking into account the totality of the situation. Then orientate the information gathered about the conflict and compare it to any training, experience and knowledge about conflicts. Next, decide on the best course of action[based on the matching of the first two steps] and lastly put the action into motion. No matter what the action is[disengage, call for more resources, make an initial approach, etc…], there will be a resulting reaction or change in circumstances and the loop begins again.

This loop can occur in a split second, and decisions  are made in high stress and volatile environments. This needs to be taken into account. Be patient, tactful, blunt, control your sense of pride and understand that IT IS NOT PERSONAL. De-escalating conflicts using verbal techniques is almost  an art form, and one must remain calm, logical and professional. If the conflict is directed at you, know that people are usually venting at the authority you represent and not you personally. By removing the personal element from the scenario, it becomes easier to be mindful that, “you are in charge of how you react”.

Here a few steps that can be followed to work towards more effective conflict de-escalation and resolution:

  • Obtain the name of the person with whom you are speaking: People respond favorably to their own name, and it makes the conversation more personal. Ask for the person’s name early and use it throughout the conversation.
  • Use Active Listening:Clarifying, paraphrasing, and open-ended questions help to ensure that the person is aware that you understand their frustrations completely. This helps lower frustration levels as it allows the person[s] to ‘get it off their chest’, and vent. Also, repeating someone else’s words back to them clearly shows your comprehension of their points on a very basic level.
  • Slow down and suspend judgment: Empathy needs to be shown during conflict situations, even if you don’t agree with the other person. Expressing your understanding of their feelings will help to resolve the conflict. Ensure you give this your full attention and demonstrate respect for the other person’s feelings and opinions.
  • Get them to say yes: It is very hard for someone to remain angry towards you if they are agreeing with you. Sounds ridiculous?? Using clarifying statements, questions and using summaries during the conversation all help to confirm your understanding their point. Example,” So you are feeling frustrated because of XYZ, is that right?” You are creating a situation where the other person has to respond with a ‘yes’, and the more often we get them to say yes, the quicker the conflict will de-escalate.   Extremely useful technique!
  • Don’t use clichés: The worst is saying,”Calm Down”. If you have ever heard these words, you know that the usual response is “I am calm”, and said at the top of their lungs, too. Hand gestures will be animated as well. So, don’t say it!
  • Express empathy: Show compassion and give the conflict full attention, without making rash judgments. Work through the process.
  • Consistency in Courtesy: The person you are dealing with at midnight is the same person you are dealing with at midday. They deserve the same level of respect, courtesy and patience. The 12th person with whom you have interacted deserves the same respect as the 2nd-be consistent and professionalism. Often, you are making both a first and last impression for someone. A consummate professional!

Verbal de-escalation tools are important skills to possess and as such, need to be honed and practiced regularly if they are to become part of our natural response to conflict situations. Training and ingraining these techniques to the point where they become second nature allows you to focus more on the fluid and dynamic changing aspects of conflict such as the signs and triggers mentioned above. This also enables you to develop a greater awareness of other situational factors. The combination of all these factors will provide the greatest chance of minimizing and resolving conflict in the safest and most positive way possible. Remember “The OODA Loop”!!!

Still Searching For An Equal Co-Parent?

IMG_0040

My daughter and her husband are both working parents. They have the same employer-the United States Air Force. They also share job titles. Both are Instructor Pilots. They have a one-year old daughter, who adds another dimension to family life and their relationship. They have to be able to effectively co-parent, in their child’s best interest.

In two parent homes with children, it is no longer uncommon for both to be employed outside of the home. Most employers, including the US Air Force, have some form of a parental leave policy for both women and men, paternity or maternity leave. When a new baby arrives, it is both joyful and frightening for both partners. Life, as they once knew it must be renegotiated. It can be overwhelming, and although times have changed, mothers still are expected to bear the most responsibilities of caring for a child.

Working mothers have to negotiate a timely return to work, if she values her career or if her paychecks are critical to the financial survival of the family. This can also reflect the beliefs that held regarding the role of men and women as it pertains to career, childcare and certain household chores. The ‘traditional’ division of labor assumed that women had the primary responsibility for maintaining the home and children in the home. Women were expected to do it all- everything except work outside of the home. Men handled the world of work, managed household finances, and occasionally would mow the lawn or do light repairs. Today, this is being challenged and flipped on its head. Not any more, but couples must negotiate their roles while respecting the reality which says,”the house doesn’t clean itself”, and meanwhile, the bills must get paid.

IMG_9234

Stay at home mothers ARE still working mothers, and there are no designated work hours. It is a 24/7 non-paying position. Women have choices and today, they exercise those choices. My daughter and son-in-law reflect a more equitable distribution of labor and duties with regard to their daughter. While breastfeeding, a father’s role in childcare is minimal at best. Changing diapers, occasional bathing, burping, characterized his role.

Upon returning to work, as Pilots, their work-related duties are complex. When my daughter discovered that she was expecting, she had the obligation to inform her superiors. She is a Major,  Director of Flight Operations, and was grounded by the military during this critical time of her life. Three months leave, and cleared to fly again, she returned to work. My son-in-law didn’t have to negotiate the issues faced by my daughter. He, also a Major, continued to fly during her pregnancy. She became, while pregnant, the chief logistics officer. In other words, she was limited to desk duty, scheduled airtime, flight schedules, student assessments, but no flying…temporarily.

IMG_0160

Now that she has resumed her full time duties-  is airborne again- the  baby’s childcare decision had to be made. Together, they agreed upon a nurturing environment for her/their daughter which allowed continued nursing.  Fortunately, the Air Force also provides an on-site, on base CDC[child day care] center. Both mom and dad can drop in and visit their daughter during their workday, and as greatly respected officers, they felt secure in the quality of care, as well.

IMG_0013

At home, my daughter and her husband  co-parent so nicely, and almost naturally, too. I envy them both, while admiring their level of maturity, equity and equal consideration of one another within a dual-career family. He can be seen giving baths, cleaning the house, washing dishes, and  vacuuming rugs[even though Roomba* does the work]. He also, with relative frequency, prepares nighttime bottles for his daughter and rocks her to sleep, giving mom a little rest. I didn’t mention that they also have two dogs, as well.

There is nothing that my daughter does that he doesn’t or won’t do. It is so reassuring to me to see this type of relationship between two people. I am so very proud of them both. For almost nine years of marriage, these new parents, both career-oriented and responsible adults, are contemplating child #2 soon. Another military brat in the future! Co-parenting? Yes it is alive and well, in at least one family, my daughter’s. [Did she train him well?] Or is he too good to be true, and a product of his own upbringing? To whatever we attribute it, they are a beautiful family, adoring parents and they have one lucky little girl!

Their relationship,  no matter where their lives and careers lead,  is enhanced because they are both such loving and adoring parents. That is one of the most  important components necessary, along with mutual respect, effective communication and effective coping skills that adults must demonstrate and model for their children.

The notion of co-parenting was examined in new research that measured the hours spent by 167 couples who work full-time on housework before and after the birth of their first child. While mothers tend to do the lion’s share of childcare and housework, six major factors emerged that may determine how likely men are to strive to do their fair share. Read more by following the link below:

via Searching for an equal co-parent.

Also, share your opinions and experiences on co-parenting-past or present. Leave a reply!

Run Away or Runaways: The “Invisible Homeless”

 

Each year more than 1 million people, between 14 and 24 years old, experience homelessness for a week or longer. Many of the reasons that teenagers find themselves homeless include:

  • adult substance abuse
  • adult mental illness
  • domestic violence
  • identifying as LGBTQ
  • etc,….

Some youth may find themselves exiting from or aging out of foster care or juvenile justice systems and hence, without necessary transition services, experience homelessness. It is fairly easy to recognize an adult on the streets as you go about your busy day, who may be experiencing homelessness, but youth are often difficult to spot. These youth find themselves on their own with no means of support-cut off- from any assurance of basic needs getting met from day to day.

Assistance is truly scarce out there. If you listen to formerly homeless youth, detail their experiences, maybe the things that we take for granted as everyone’s reality, would become more concrete. It begins to sink in that these ‘children’ are out in the world alone, literally. Male and female, teenagers, cannot be left to fend for themselves without adult supports and basic needs provided them.

We think about those students who attend school everyday, and they just don’t seem to be there, fully engaged. Grades may slip, behavior problems develop, they sleep in class, their clothes are visibly unclean. What do we do as educators charged with the comprehensive development of these children? They are largely in the age group, where attendance is mandatory. So, they try to show up.

Are we really paying attention? In this society, children, school aged and under the age of 18, are not expected to care for themselves without adult supervision, without a bed, a roof, lights, food, clean clothes, even hygienic products. Yet, we mindlessly stand before a classroom filled with students, whether they are black or brown or poor, and appear to ignore a child’s plight.

We chastise, discipline, belittle, or shake our heads at someone’s child, who at least finds his or her way to school in the first place. We watch grades deteriorate, and yet, that child can go ‘home’, wherever that may be for that day or night, and assign extra, ‘make-up’ assignments, to be completed in class or at home. But, do we ask ourselves where that child calls home, or if there is an actual home? Is it a subway car, an abandoned building, an alleyway, an alternative and equally unstable and unsafe environment?

Is it a friend’s house tonight, and an aunt’s house tomorrow? Can they actually concentrate on an assignment when they are food insecure, are in places so frightening that they actually are afraid to close their eyes to get a good night’s restful sleep? Are they parents or are they parenting their own siblings, or parenting a parent?

These youth usually only need housing for a short period of time. They need jobs, job training, education, to be taught life skills, to do budgets, and be shown how to cook and clean so they can earn a living wage to pay their bills.

All young people who have experienced homelessness have experienced trauma before and while they are homeless. A lot are sexually assaulted or are sex or labor trafficked while they are homeless. If a child runs away at around 15 or 16, and they have no source of money, for food, housing, clothes, what do we reasonably believe that they will do to survive? Become prey to underworld activities and engage in activities which make them vulnerable to the sex trafficking trades, if they survive.

Then, there’s always a life in and out of the judicial system, jails, detention centers, and then what do we suppose their life chances are for survival as adults will be? If they make it to become fully mature adults, that is. But until then, these youth comprise the “invisible homeless”, unless we find it in our hearts and politics to provide proactive supports for families, and their children, before it gets too late,…and the children disappear into the night on their own  on the streets of America. And we call ourselves the Land of the free, and the home of the brave!”

These youth are the quintessentially brave and they are brave without a home! Invisible to the adults who all, every one of us, say they care about ALL children! Is it us or is it them who need help? As we ponder that question, think about the millions of teenagers who are living on the streets in this country, and go by everyday unnoticed, unsupported and unprotected! These vulnerable youth ARE the most brave of us all! It is our move to say something, and do something to protect these young people, today and for the future, so we can be a part of their, our solution! The future is now.

Let’s Create a Culture of Family-Centered Practices in School Settings

greet parents

For professional educators, serving children in schools means serving the family as well, and we must adopt practices which will move school systems, procedures, perspectives, protocols and program policies, towards being family-centered in the framework of teaching and learning. The elements of family-centered practices all work towards empowering families with the knowledge and skills to make the best decisions  for their children and the family as a unit. When parents are empowered, they feel in control; a palpable sense of agency.They also become more invested when they feel they are respected as experts and collaborators in the educational planning process.

Professionals must recognize that when they develop a relationship with a child, they are also developing a relationship with the child’s family. The more collaborative the relationship is with families, the more invested and engaged the child becomes in the classroom and learning and achievement potential is optimized. Collaboration is the key, and successful relationships require hard work. When the life of a child is at stake, there is no room for failure-it is not an option.

An essential component of family-centered practice is collaboration in decision-making. As a model of partnership, family-centered practice has as its underlying philosophy the belief that
families are pivotal in the lives of children and should be empowered to engage in decision making
for them.
It actually has its origins in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, in that it recognizes that children exist within a wider context of family,
community and society where at every level the ecological system is interconnected. In this ecological system, the child, the family and the
environment are inseparable and what affects one member of the system impacts on the other members.  Each member of the system, and their relationships, are in turn influenced by the broader social, political and educational policies. It is this broader system (mesosystem) that shapes the perceptions, expectations and equality of the relationships that exist between the nested systems.

display key

Since we recognize the interconnectedness of these systems-family, child, school, community- it is logical that we likewise assume a multi-generational approach to teaching and learning at school. What empowers one system, empowers and impacts all others. “If you know better, you do better!” Today, we know better and more about the interplay between learning at home and learning at school. When all are aligned, we maximize successful learning outcomes, we enhance life quality for families, strengthen communities, and position our society and its citizens to thrive in a global economy-the global village.

What remains baffling, however, is why it seems to be such reluctance to ‘share’ power and expand the instructional audience to include families, adult caregivers, and diversity. There is an incredible difference between giving away power and sharing power.

Family-centered practices do not mean that the experts in education are relinquishing their expertise to the parents, whose expertise is in their child, culture and unique strengths they possess. Instead, we are asking that professional educators, whose knowledge, experience and expertise lies in their chosen specializations, share their knowledge and benefits from their expertise with families-a collaboration.

Family-centered practices is a partnership, an alliance between systems of care, where knowledge is shared, goals are mutually identified, designed and collaboratively implemented. When parents and families understand your purpose, recognize common interests, and are given the tools and skills to support and fully align with them, children fare better, relationships become more meaningful,
and come to life in the classroom, the home and the community at large-inseparably.

The pathway to this end is through authenticity, trust, respect and reciprocal communication.With a focus on strengths and solutions- finding, we must adopt a genuine appreciation for diversity, culture, language, family structure, etc… Unless and until we can honestly say that we understand the impact of our own culture and cultural experiences, as it influences our cultural lens, we are challenged to engage in family-centered practices with cultural competence.

Cultural competence is also at the core of family-centered practices, when working with children and their families. To respectfully teach and engage a child in learning is to respect and engage that child’s family and with that child’s culture. Demonstrating respect for the culture is to recognize the differences, acknowledge the similarities, and communicate, in conversation or classroom instruction, responsively. This brings us to ‘mirrors and windows’. Children require, not maybe, but definitely, require in their best interests, a healthy balance of both mirrors and windows in the classroom, within a curriculum framed by a broad and inclusive lens.

Eurocentricity and windows-focused curricula and instruction defy the ‘whole child-whole family’ philosophy, and is harmful to the comprehensive growth and development of children. It also negates our responsibility to empower every child and his or her family, as well. If diversity is represented in a school community, especially, and the instruction does not address, affirm or highlight that diversity, we are ‘mis-educating’ the child, disempowering the family and  performing a great disservice to that community.

Family-centered practices place children and families at the fore and central consideration at the core of curriculum, policy, practice, and procedural design and protocol…if indeed we endeavor to act in the best interest of children, and to help them realize their potential for school, career, and life success.

“So goes the family; So goes the nation.”... interconnectedness!