Everyone is allowed to be safe.
In our home the mantra is “everyone is allowed to be safe” I will then walk through who “everyone” is, from the oldest adult to the smallest pet. Why do I do this? I could say that everyone gets to be loved or that everyone gets to be happy, those sound nice right? Instead I use the word safe and that is because you have to feel safe and be safe before you can experience love and happiness.
One reason why I don’t use the word “love” as part of our mantra is that I cannot define love, but I can teach and define the word safe. Safe means no hitting, kicking or biting. Safe also means no screaming, name calling or threats.
Safe is good in the home or out of the home, everyone is allowed to be safe, and if they are not safe then it is my job to see that safe happens. How does this look?
You start by having the conversation (when your child is having a calm period) and you discuss the actual word. You write it down and explain what it means. You may draw pictures or talk about the feelings you have when safe. The child in your care may not actually understand it as they may have never before felt safe, getting started with what safe means is key for them.
You then create a visual about how this is a safe house. We had one that said “everyone in this home gets to be safe” and we wrote each persons name under it. This shows that even adults get to be safe (this is important to teach young children to not hit adults).
Next you begin having discussions about safe. When you see them making a safe choice you name it and say “you made a safe choice, well done”. It may be as simple as walking down the stairs and not running, notice it and say “thanks for walking safely down the stairs”. You basically use the word in your daily life, pointing out times of being safe and pointing out times of not being safe. This is not to shame or punish, but to teach the difference between safe and not safe. Our goal is to make them aware to enable a choice.
Now they understand the word how do you use it in difficult situations? I will see my child begin to get upset, I will tell them that they have a choice, they can choose the unsafe choice of hitting me or they can choose to keep me safe and I can help them with a tool to keep them safe.
When they are showing signs of distress and I want to intervene they often will start to show fear. I will keep my voice calm, face rested in a gentle smile and ask them if I look safe. I then show them my calm voice and calm face (remember we have done work on what safe looks like, this is why being exact is important). One child will say “safe” and that’s all, but they will also begin to relax.
Stopping violence in the home is important. I have found that one thing that does help to end it is to actually give and teach other options. The first step in this is simply to teach what a safe choice looks and feels like. You cannot stop violence by just saying “stop” you need to give them other options, other choices.
Today make your home a “safe” home and start teaching that this includes everyone, from the child in your care to you the adult. It sounds like a simple thing, like everyone should know how to do it, but you can’t do what you were never taught…so start teaching “safe” and remember that it will take time, but once they know what it means they are much more likely to do it.