Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy was developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in the 1950's. Educators are beginning to rethink how they address behaviour in schools. Slowly we are appreciating that if students are to learn how to better manage themselves emotionally and behaviourally more successfully then REBT has a lot to offer through RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOUR EDUCATION
Sam feels angry in class when she can’t get something she wants. Sam is six and has been at school for just a short time and her anger is stopping her from being successful. She gives up on tasks and just ‘has to have’ her friends hat which is newer than hers and she snatches it away! She isn’t making friends too readily and it’s hard to hold on to them when she does! She is bossy with others and is very insistent and demanding.
What are her rules? What beliefs has she constructed that drive her unhealthy emotions and behaviours? What can the teacher do to help her in the classroom?
Her teacher referred her to me (school counsellor) outlining her concerns for this student.
I spent some time in Sam’s classroom and observed her at work and play. I could see why the teacher had concerns for her and so I met with her after school to talk about a plan to help Sam.
As a Rational Emotive Behaviour Counsellor I consider Sam’s behaviour to be the expression of some irrational rules that she has formulated as follows:
- I must get my way
- I can’t stand not getting what I want
- It’s not fair when I don’t
- If she won’t give me what I want she is bad
I suggest to Sam’s teacher that I take some lessons in her class so others can benefit from some REBE learning and so I don’t withdraw Sam from her class and classmates.
Over a series of five lessons I talk about helpful and unhelpful thinking. I call unhelpful thinking Brain Bully and helpful thinking Brain Friend. We make puppets and play games like Who’s Talking BB or BF? I make thinking statements like the following and children show if BF is talking or BB is talking e.g.
- I am dumb. I can’t do it! (BB)
- This is tough but I will try (BF)
- She is mean! (BB)
- She did a mean thing (BF)
- I must get what I want! (BB)
- I don’t have to always get my way (BF)
We use the Emotional Thermometer to show how thinking is connected to our feelings and behaviour. So for example I teach students that when BB is talking in my head I feel angry (I don’t get what I must have!) and we point to the top of the thermometer to show angry. When BF is talking (I can handle this. It isn’t so awful) we point to the lower end of the thermometer. This is a great way to teach young learners that:
- There are helpful and unhelpful habits of thinking
- BF makes manageable feelings
- BB makes unmanageable feelings
This is an early introduction to Albert Ellis’ ABC theory of Emotional Disturbance for young learners. Ellis’ model shows the relationship between what happens, A (Activating event), my constructed beliefs, B and how I feel at C (Emotional/behavioural Consequence). Young Sam doesn’t know that her strong feelings and inappropriate actions are not so much caused by A but it is Brain Bully at B that’s causing her angst. This insight will help Sam learn how to control her feelings and make better behavioural choices.
To summarise the last paragraph: A+B=C.
The above will be covered over a few lessons in a fun way but the learning is profound! Sam and her classmates will learn that:
- They experience unhealthy, strong feelings
- They can make poor choices when they do
- Their unhelpful thinking makes these strong feelings (BB)
- BB is not true and unhelpful, BF is true and helpful
In the next post we will see how Sam and her classmates are going and how the teacher will maintain the momentum of this learning into the future.
The song below is about anger and what students can do about it.