Control. It seems quite a negative word, wanting to be “better” than others, to get others to do what you want them to do. In these days where mental health issues for children seem to be talked about far more the need for control often seems to crop up – controlling what they can, sometimes leading to anorexia or self-harming or outbursts of violence.
Is control a bad thing? Is there a difference between controlling and leading? There are different levels of control, in school some people automatically are given some control – the head teacher, the governors, within classrooms, the class teacher should be in control. We expect children to control themselves – to do as we ask, to behave in a way that is socially acceptable. We need someone to lead, to be in control so that there is order and a way forward.
Some of our children seem to feel that they need to be in control. “Come and do your work,” can be met with a variety of answers:
- Yes, of course
- No, I won’t
- I’ll only do a bit of it
- I’ll only do it if I can then ….
- I’ll do it sitting with Jimmy but I’m not sitting with Jane
The first answer is obviously what we all hope for, groups of children all doing exactly what we asked – we are in control!
The second, outright defiance, often then leads to discussion and then potentially the next 3, the child needs to gain some element of control.
This need for control seems to happen everywhere. I’ve come back from church where a Golden Wedding was being celebrated, the elderly couple had all of their family with them to celebrate. They took up 3 pews. There were mumblings and grumblings from some other people, “their” seat was taken. It was fine they found other places to sit, it was temporary, next week they can return. It is the first Sunday of the month, the children lead the service. A lady in her wheelchair arrived, her normal place had been taken by someone who had had her hip replaced. She was happy to sit a little further along with her daughter sitting behind her. Good plan. The lady in charge of the children’s group told her to move, she wasn’t part of the group. I have several problems with this, but now isn’t the place to discuss them. She was in control, she was going to get her own way, no compromise.
Sometimes there is a place for compromise, to give up a bit of the control, especially if someone has a good reason but sometimes you need to be in control so that chaos doesn’t reign.
Where does this need for control come from? From within I suppose. Some seem to need a constant diet of being controlled whilst others feel the need to be in control. Looking at some of the children’s backgrounds we can, sometimes, perhaps, start to make sense of why they behave like they do and we need to build in appropriate control for them either making them take control or allowing them something that they can control.
It’s a hard balance and something that I don’t think I’d really considered up until the last year when I became a SENCO, perhaps this is because in my bubble of a classroom I knew the rules. The head said it, I did it, I said it, the children did it – if only! I had always previously considered it a matter of give and take; I had never thought in terms of control. I knew the chain of command. At times this seems to have broken down. I have no answers but do frequently wonder, “Who is in control?”