The Five Steps are a technique developed by Lisa Kuzara-Seibold, Minister of Early Childhood Education at Word of Grace Church in Mesa, Arizona. I had the amazing opportunity to mentor under her while employed by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a Sunday School Teacher. This example of The Five Steps is an adaptation of what is taught in her training manual.
Step 1: State your request and offer a reason.
Example: “You need to stop yourself from playing and clean up. It is time to leave.”
Step 2: Restate your request.
Example: “You need to stop yourself from playing and clean up.”
It is helpful to get down on the child’s level and touch your child while looking in his eyes to make sure you have his attention.
Step 3: Offer help.
Example: “You are having a hard time stopping your play. Can you stop playing and clean up or do you need my help?”
Whether your child requests help or not respect their wishes. Help is not a punishment, it is help.
Step 4: Help.
Example: “You are not stopping your play. Here, let me help you.”
Again, help is not a punishment. It is an acknowledgment that your child is unable to stop on their own. This may be due to a lack of maturity, being tired or hungry, or simply not wanting to stop.
Step 5: The Bear Hug.
Stand behind your child and wrap your arms over her shoulders and across her chest. Hold her arms with your hands if you are concerned about her striking out. Squat down to her level and speak gently in her ear that you are helping her stop herself and that you will let her go when she can stop herself. Gentle pressure on her shoulders can keep her from kicking or attempting to run from you. This is not a punishment. It is providing outside boundaries for a child who lacks internal boundaries.
There are actually a few times when it’s appropriate.
First, it’s a great connecting tool when you’re not even using the other steps. Especially for children who love touch and contact. I often sweep into a room, scoop a child up into a bear hug, squeeze and cuddle and then move on. The thing about the positioning of the bear hug is that mom is non-threatening–behind, at child’s level, and able to speak calmly and quietly into child’s ear. The hug provides a sense of security to most children. I actually encourage doing this often so that when it’s done as the 5th step the child is comfortable with it and comforted BY it.
Second, it is a great tool for providing external boundaries when a child’s internal boundaries have broken down. Because the 4th step is *helping* that is where most interactions should end–parent helps child be successful and not cooperating is NOT an option. But if the child melts down or becomes violent then it’s important to keep them, yourself, and others safe and holding them not only does that but, with most children, helps them calm down. Because children push the boundaries when they don’t feel safe, providing kind and firm boundaries in a tangible way he’s them feel safe and calm down.
If a child is averse to the Bear Hug then I would only use it if the child was truly being violent and needed to be kept safe. In that case I’m not particularly concerned about them not liking it because safety comes first. Otherwise, if they are just *melting down* then I find a safe place for them to have their big feelings and I wait nearby.
During the Bear Hug I speak calmly into the child’s ears saying things that let them know I will release them as soon as they have their own self control, that I am bigger than their big feelings, that they are safe and I will keep them safe, that I hear them being very upset–reflecting, validating and affirming them while instructing them in what they need to do (get their self control back).