Waving a Red Flag

There are, essentially, 3 types of “red-flags” embedded within the Red-Flag Crisis.

The Red Flag Carry In

  • When a student, youth, parent, friend, lover &c. bring a problem from one setting (e.g. home, school, bus) to another setting (e.g. work, dorm, car) even though the problem has no connection to the new setting, the problem creates a new problem in this setting. As problem piles on problem, as the response of other piles on the response of others we reach a red-flag crescendo where those who were not involved, now are. This is something we often see in individuals afflicted with Borderline Personality Disorder; an inability to, so to speak, leave work at work and home at home. A red-flag carry in is one of the ways the dog gets kicked.
  • The Red Flag Carry Over

  • Similar to the carry in, the carry over brings a problem from a place to a new place in the same setting. This is where the dog would really get kicked. Imagine a problem that you are having with your spouse and you then, after leaving the room, come across one of your children in the process and you, consequently, end up yelling at the child. Same setting, new place. Troubled youth do this all of the time when they are mad at a staff member at their RTF and, as a matter of cause and effect, break a window in their bedroom or break a bone in another student.
  • The Red Flag Tap In

  • Have a repressed problem regarding your 10th grade teacher that is unresolved? Why not dig it up and smash the window of your current teacher’s car? A tap-in is utilizing an unresolved conflict as fuel to add to a new, unrelated, conflagration that you have already put a match to.
  • Regardless of which red flag you encounter, the main point is to provide for the youth and understanding that someone (e.g. their parent, their teacher) understands their real problems. But first, how do we get the youth to understand that they are displacing their feelings onto someone else?

    With a “Red-Flag” we have the students perception:

    “Everyone is against me! No one understands what’s going on with me and no one cares! I can’t take it anymore!”
    LSCI Institute

    And then we have the process by which the teacher is supposed to approach the situation:

  • Recognize that the student’s behavior is different today
  • De-escalate self-defeating behaviors and determine the source of the intense feelings and behaviors.
  • And most importantly, make sure the adult is in control of his or her personal counter-aggressive feelings toward the student while working through the multiple layers of resistance.
  • LSCI Institute

    And the process is fairly simple as defined by the LSCI Institute. First we have the 3 Diagnostic Stages:

  • First, allow the student to drain-off their feelings while the adult remains in control of their own counter-aggressive feelings.
  • Second, establish a reverse timeline of the events that led to the outburst.
  • Third, establish the central issue that is causing the youth to have the out burst.
  • And then we have 3 Reclaiming Stages:

  • First, establish insight into the students specific self-defeating behaviors.
  • Second, apply new skills that will help the student develop new social skills that will allow him or her to overcome self-defeating behaviors.
  • Third, application of the new skills. What they call the transfer of training so the student may generalize and strengthen their new tools/social skills in the classroom or home setting.
  • This is a fairly succinct way of explaining what a “Red-Flag” is. But how to we get at the central issue?

    I’ve always appreciated the method given by Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) in obtaining the central issue.

    First off, TCI is,

    “a crisis management protocol developed by Cornell University for residential child care facilities.”

    The method that I’ve always used was what they call an IESCAPE. An acronym, obviously, that stands for…

  • Isolating the youth. And not as in, put the kid in the closet and lock it. This isolation is just to remove the youth from the situation that is overstimulating or difficult for them. Isolate them by going to another room and sitting at a table with them and talk to them, like an adult.
  • Explore their perspective on everything that happened, really listen to them– actively.
  • Summarize their perspective back to them so that they fully know and trust that you’ve been listening.
  • Connect their feelings to their behaviors. Most children, hell most adults I know, don’t have the power to do this on their own.
  • Alternative… That is, have them come up with an alternative response they could have made that wouldn’t have caused such a severe outcome.
  • Practice it. Really role play it out with them. Become the other student, the friend, the girlfriend, the teacher, the peer they are upset with and play out their alternative actions.
  • Engage them back into routine with their new skills.
  • Now, this is an incredibly effective means to establish new tools for a troubled child in a “Red-Flag” situation. It is essential to follow these steps, with personal adjustments of course, to get the youth to understand their displacement of feelings onto other people. And to teach them new tools to no displacing this anger.

    (Ah-ha! Feeling displacement. Now, where have I heard of such an approach to feeling dis-displacement before? Coming up next…

    How I learned to love Byron Katie…)


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