Prevention Talk: January 2020
Helen M. Exum, Senior Prevention Educator
Twin County Recovery Services, Inc.
The prevention education programs Too Good for Violence and Too Good for Drugs are based on Social Developmental Strategy which states that when students gain information about the risks and benefits of certain behaviors, adopt positive attitudes and learn the appropriate social skills they can then begin to effect change in a positive direction. Change is not complete unless students adopt positive norms and bond with positive institutions and people. Bonding requires students to have the opportunity to participate and receive recognition for participation in the family, school and community settings. Furthermore, we know that behavior is shaped through observing the behavior of others and reinforcement, that is experiencing positive consequences for their own behavior. Because behavior is learned through observation, we must all be acutely aware of our role as models. Understanding the basic premise behind the program gives us a clear picture of the process used to achieve the goals of preventing violence and or drug use in young people.
Social Skills are basic to the program. Lesson three in kindergarten focuses on sharing. Songs, a story with puppets, and an art activity deliver the message on all learning channels. Students have an opportunity to practice sharing throughout the remainder of the program when they work with partners and in small groups. Grade one combines the social skills learned in kindergarten, sharing, taking turns, and listening with relationship building skills. These children practice respectful caring behavior towards each other using their “Me Puppets”. Mendez states, “Learning to make and keep friends who favor pro-social activities is one of the most vital skills a child can have.” Violent behavior is often the result of the inability of the child to participate effectively within a pro-social group.
Grades two and three build on the themes of friendship building, and add recognizing and managing feelings by introducing effective communication to express ones feelings without aggression. The “I Message” is a simple formula the components of which allow the child to name his feeling, explain what has caused the feeling and what needs to be done to remedy the situation. An “I Message” looks like this: I feel (insert a feeling word) when you (what happened?) I need you to (what needs to be done?) While the formula is simple the delivery requires a conscious effort on the part of the child to choose non- inflammatory language or assume an accusatory stance. Becoming proficient requires practice.
Building a feeling word vocabulary begins in kindergarten and continues throughout the program. “I Messages” are used in every grade with subtle changes in language appropriate at the different developmental stages. Communication skills are a critical to our success in relationship building, conflict resolution, just about everything we do. Great emphasis is placed on teaching the children, adolescents, and teens to recognize their feelings, being emotionally self- aware, and to determine the event that triggered the emotion. Teens learn social awareness, the ability to properly assess the level of intensity of the feeling, our motivations. This skill helps them to consider the appropriate social response in any given situation before acting. or speaking. Emotions are evaluated as powerful influences that need to be controlled and managed to avoid escalating conflicts, damaging or destroying relationships, and making poor decisions. Being aware of our own feelings helps us recognize the emotions of others. Recognizing other’s emotions enables us to respond with empathy. Managing emotions empowers the person to manage stress levels and improve the quality of relationships and the individual’s overall emotional and physical health.