#Safeguarding children – Your responsibility

#Safeguarding children - Your responsibility

#Safeguarding children – Your responsibility.

  • Q1. Should you have any? Well morally you should……
  • Q2.Do you have any? We don’t all share that moral imperative so some people turn a blind eye….
  • Q3.Does your place of work mean that responsibility is also a legal one? Many people that fit into Q2 also work in, or contract with, organisations that have a duty to #safeguard children. By working within that business you  have a legal duty to do the same.


#Safeguarding children – some facts…


Why is it so important that we #safeguard and promote the welfare of children? Have a look at this link, which isn’t graphic, but is informative.  (OFSTED VIDEO)

Where issues are seen to be real, are talked about, are factored into organisational behaviour we get better results.

Did you know that “20% of child deaths reviewed in England between 2010 and 2011 were from preventable causes including accidents, suicide, abuse, and neglect.” (Click to the Lancet research). #

According to the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)

“in in the 17-month period to the end of August 2008 local authorities in England notified Ofsted of 424 serious incidents involving the deaths of 282 children. This equates to 199 annually, or almost four children each week. Since publication of this report, Ofsted has clarified that 210 of these deaths, i.e. three each week, were actually attributable to abuse or neglect (Gilbert,2008).”

This was also within the time frame of Peter Connoly’s Death (Baby P).

Does that shock you? Revolt you? It is something that needs to change and is within all of our wit to change.


#Safeguarding Children – What can I do?safeguarding

Do you ever hear voices? I do, I have been checked out and I am OK! These voices say things to me like “what is happening there?”, “did she really say that?”, “What does that mean”, “OMG …!.”

We all have these voices and should try to turn up that volume when encountering children through our work (legal responsibility) but actually we ought to be doing this outside of work too… (moral responsibility?)

So what types of things might we encounter that would set these voices off, that might ring Alarm bells?


#Safeguarding – the 5 broad categories of abuse

In England and Wales there are 5 broad categories of abuse, which help us to focus on things that might be happening.

The numbers quoted here are attributed to the NSPCC (LINK)


Physical Abuse

  • hurting a child.
  • causing deliberate injuries.
  • 1 in14 children have been physically abused, 20% of the NSPCC helpline calls were about this last year.


Sexual Abuse

  • when a child is forced or coerced to take part in sexual activity, whether the abuse is physical or not. This includes grooming and online abuse.
  • 1 in three children that are sexually abused stay silent.
  • 1 in 20 children in the Uk have suffered sexual abuse.



  • when a child is deliberately ignored, humiliated, isolated or scared.
  • 1 in 14 Uk children have suffered this from a parent or guardian.



  • failing to meet a child’s basic needs through things like poor diet, emotional welfare, clothing, warmth and love.
  • 1 in 10 children have experienced neglect.


Domestic Violence

  • where children are present, when adults abuse each other, intimidate, bully or undertake acts of physical violence.
  • being present doesn’t need to mean in the room! Ever had your in-laws staying?
  • 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic violence.
  • 60% of serious case reviews quote domestic abuse as being a significant factor.

 The dangers of categorising abuse

WAbusee need to be able to describe what we have encountered in a logical clear way. This adds clarity to our referrals, but to attribute only one of these categories to a child is too simplistic. How can someone that is being beaten (physically abused) not also be a victim of Neglect and Emotional abuse. The categories can help us, but professionals always look at the broader picture.

I hope you found this interesting, in subsequent blogs we will look at what you can really see, hear and feel that would require you to take some action.

At PDP we consult, design and deliver programmes around safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children that are stimulating, engaging and developmental.  We recognise your business has its own specific needs and bespoke programmes accordingly.

Here is an example of direct feedback from the a customer last week


“I think this course was useful to everyone not just operational

staff, his personal knowledge on the subject was outstanding and his personal

experience helped to overview real scenarios as opposed to

made up scenario’s following a powerpoint.”

Let us help you and your business make a difference.

 Like us on Facebook Professional Development People and  Twitter @richardjonesPDP  or @therealme_PDP

or Email


Useful other resources @nspcc @paladinservice @ceopuk


Is personal coaching right for you? 7 top tips to find out

Personal Coaching

Personal coaching, what is it?  Is it all a con or something useful?  Last week PDP wrote a blog on mentoring and focused on the workplace.  This week, we are going to explore personal coaching and look at what it is in layman’s terms, how it can benefit individuals and lastly look at 7 top tips to know if personal coaching is right for you.

What is personal coaching?

There are numerous definitions of coaching, and many different uses for it, look up this term or life coaching on google!  This article is based on my own experiences as a coach and from informal conversations and intends to explain this concept to joe public.  My from experience, people tend to view coaching in one of two ways, either as being work related (positive) and focusing on helping someone develop a certain skill or knowledge they need for their work role or a promotion.  This type of coaching is generally paid for by the company.  Alternatively, personal coaching can be  confused with counselling and seen by family and friends as being used when someone is “cracking up”, “losing it”, or “struggling to cope due to stress”. Coaching almost seems to be a dirty work if used for personal development, and often individuals aren’t keen to admit to it.  Are things that bad may be asked of them, or what are you actually paying for?  To the uninitiated, coaching can seem to be just a self-indulgent chat with a stranger.  If so, what of it? It is often in the same price bracket as a facial or a massage and if that’s what someone would prefer to do, why not spend money and time looking at the bigger picture of what is happening in your life, and planning next steps for your career, personal relationship, health or personal well-being?
Personal or life coaching has been described by as being able to affect change in “many situations” and describes the process as being able to help “a person’s career direction and development”, or be used “for personal fulfillment or life change more generally”.

What does personal coaching actually do?

1 Support a client to see the bigger picture and step back from being ‘in’ their life for 30 minutes or an hour and view it from the ‘outside’
 2 Untangle some of the threads which can cause personal confusion or negative feelings and emotions
 3 Focus individuals on thinking about what they want to achieve in a specific area of their life
4 Enable someone to recognise their potential
personal coaching - header
 5 Help the client examine perceived problems to see if they are real or not
 6 Guide the client to identify their own route to finding solutions to problems
 7 Lead to a changed mind set, that can have lasting positive consequences


Who can benefit from personal coaching?

The short answer to this question is anyone and everyone. Personal coaching hones in on a particular issue or focus area, that is important to the client and can generally be explored in a short number of sessions.  However, the timescales are dependent on the client’s natural pace and ability to explore and gain the understanding of themselves necessary to move forward.  I’m also had a client who felt she “had got it!” and wanted to stop the sessions, only to come back a few months later to continue with the process.  This particular lady had felt a natural high at breaking through what had seemed an insurmountable mental wall, and thought that was enough, only to realise that now the mental and emotional barrier of “I can’t” had gone, she still needed support with the actions needed to achieve her goal.
Personal coaching is no longer in the realm of only being open to the wealthy or those who have nothing better to do.  It has been re-packaged and re-branded over time to be more accessible to anyone who wants to take charge of an aspect of their life in a positive way.  This can be achieved with the help of a coach, who is impartial and can act as a sounding board, and has the expertise to support them through a problem solving process to help the client improve their life in some way.  Coaching however, does not have ‘set answers’ which the client is guided to.  The client is in control and chooses the direction they wish to take.


How do I know if personal coaching is right for me?


1 Do you need help with a particular area of your life, and would prefer to discuss it with someone removed from the situation, rather than your family or friends?

2 Are you thinking of making a big change in your life, but are unsure if it’s the right decision?

3 Do you want to progress in your career but are not sure how to this?

4 Would you like to improve your personal relationships with friends and  family members?

5 Do you want to develop certain skills, but aren’t sure if they’re really you?

6 Do you want to learn more about yourself and ways in which you can project a positive image?

7 Is it time for you to take stock of your skills and strengths and re-evaluate where you are and where you want to go?

How does personal coaching work at PDP?

I will be your personal coach, and we will agree how you would best like to work and the terms and conditions.  The most popular options are:

  • Over the phone
  • Face-to-face in an agreed venue
  • Skype


Contact me via to discuss this more. I look forward to working with you. Paula


15 ways to improve your Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence


Increasingly, in the businesses we partner, the concept of having a high IQ is no longer enough to be successful. To paraphrase a good friend, Mike, ” Why do people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time?”  A delegate yesterday said to me, that it is because those people with enormous IQs don’t have any “common sense!”  There could be something in that….. BUT emotional intelligence isn’t just about common sense. According to Reuven Bar-On the 15 ways to improve your emotional intelligence are found within 5 key areas or Realms.

The 5 Realms of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Stress Managementei3
  2. People skills
  3. Self Perception
  4. Decision Making
  5. Self Expression

15 Ways to improve your Emotional Intelligence

We can further break these areas down into 15 competencies that we can all improve upon

1 Stress management

The aspects of Stress Management that are within our sphere of influence arestress management

  • Tolerance – to be able to manage stressful situations confidently. To use your skills to influence in a positive manner. (click here to link to a previous Blog on influencing)
  • Optimism – to keep up a positive attitude, to understand that others will look at your outputs, body language, tone etc and make judgements. To keep that facade even when we are being knocked back.
  • Flexibility – to adjust your feelings and emotions appropriately, relative to the circumstances.


2 People  Skills

  • Networks – NOT a dirty word. Rather the ability to build rapport and relationships, how we get on with others.
  • Empathy – to be conscious that we need to walk in other peoples shoes. This isn’t about feeling sorry for someone (sympathy) but much more about seeing their world, through their eyes.
  • Being Social responsible – this isn’t about going on marches! However the highly emotionally intelligent have a consciousness that feels for and interacts positively with the community.


3 Self Perception

  • Self regard – to understand ones self, recognise the good, the bad and the ugly.  Knowing strengths and weakness’  “Practise things you’re good at, keep on top of things you’re not so good at, but be world-class at your best. Never think, I’m very good at this and that, I can leave those for a bit.” Brian O’Driscoll (click for the full interview)
  • Self awareness – Understand what makes you tick, recognise the causes of personal emotions and the impact they have on your immediate circle of influence.
  • Drive to improve – to fight to get to your potential. Frank Spencer’s motto (from Some Mothers’ Do ‘Ave Em) ” Every day in every way I will get better and better” . The ability to be resolute and persistent.


4 Decision Making

  • Self Control – to keep a grip on your impulsive behaviour, to reign in the free child. Understanding that it is always necessary to know the truth, not always to say it.
  • Looking in the mirror – to match your feelings with real things, to be objective, to understand when objectivity is vanishing..
  • Problem Solving – to understand the influence that emotions have on our ability to make rational, reasoned decisions.


5 Self expression


  • Express your emotions – being open about how you feel, being congruent between what you say and your non verbal communications.
  • Self Motivating – to be self reliant, not emotionally dependent upon the conduct or thinking of others.
  • Assertiveness – to truly understand that you have rights and responsibilities, to stand up for them without violating the rights of those around you. (click here for our Blog on this)




Now that you recognise these 15 competencies of emotional intelligence, would you like to improve them?

Give Paula or Richard a call 08712349873 we would LOVE to help you, your team or your organisation. TWITTER @richardjonesPDP




Mentoring is becoming much more common within organisations that want to develop talent. It allows business to develop people outside of the line management chain, looking towards the future, innovation and succession planning. When done well it can hot house talent, retain highly effective people and be a motivational tool. It is a two sided process. Both Mentor and Mentee have a lot to gain from the process and relationship.

Mentoring – the process

To be effective the mentoring process ought be cut up into four parts

  1. Training and awareness
  2. Contracting
  3. Outcomes – Where are we now and where are we going?
  4. The Journey – How do we travel from the “now” to the outcome?

lets explore some aspects of the process

1 Training and AwarenessMentor

In our experience there are a huge range of reasons why people want to be involved on either side of a Mentoring relationship. The poorest reasons are WIFM (whats in it for me) and I can show off my skills, cleverness and contacts. For the relationship to be really productive the scene needs to be set. Benefits and responsibilities explored, the process demystified. The safest way to achieve that within business is to run separate training events for Mentors and Mentees, before the partnerships have been allocated.

In our experience the greatest nerves, concerns and questions come from the Mentors. They really want to do a great job and need the support of a structure. Mentees are often in awe of their potential mentors. Can look at the Mentor as some “generous benefactor” who will shower them with gifts and opportunities. A father Christmas figure. This needs to be clearly addressed before we begin, along with the process. Once the training is done we can release the mentors and mentees into the wild!

2 Contracting

Having been through our training process both parties will understand that they need to have very clear guidelines about what is acceptable, desirable and possible. (click here for our Blog on Behavioural contracting) This isn’t about where we are going, its about the rules of engagement. It is very much about a framework that we can collaborate within. This contracting has the additional benefit of starting the rapport building process, without which TRUST cannot exist. Mentoring is outside the line management chain amentoring contractnd should remain confidential.  However at this stage it MUST be made clear when the confidence should be broken. This falls into one of three reasons;

  • The mentee is at risk
  • The mentor is at risk
  • Someone else or even the organiastion is at risk


3 Outcomes – Where are we NOW and  where are we going?

This is where the Mentors skills will really be put to the test. In an open, honest and frank way the Mentor must create an atmosphere of realism in the outcomes. Help the mentee to generate a specific, measurable outcome of the relationship. Through this process it is imperative that the knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours of the mentee are taken into account. Using tools like a SWOB analysis the mentee needs explore their Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Barriers NOW.

Realism, relevance and attainability of the outcome should be discussed. This is NOT about killing  aspirations, far from it, but giving the outcome a chance of life.


4 The Journey – How do we travel to the outcome

If the previous three phasmentoring signpostes have been followed successfully then this is about development, opportunities and networking. This is where the vast experience of the Mentor enables them to guide the Mentee in a particular direction, with the final outcome in clear focus. Mentees will be given tasks to undertake, be involved in discussions, be encouraged to be creative.

REMEMBER Coaching is about helping a colleague with specific work objectives and performance. The job of the line manager. Mentoring is more open, looking at things that might allow the Mentee to grow into new challenges.

Like to know more? How might this work in your business, give Paula or Richard a call.


Bring policies and procedures to life

HR Policies and Procedures


Many organisations we work with have a wide range of support available to their managers. Yet still have problems with work based relationships. Their managers try to manage, but fall foul of mistakes that can easily be avoided. So how can they bring policies and procedures to life? Why should they?  Bringing policies and procedures to life allows managers to resource their staff, and workers to get on with their work without distractions.

Here is a model that we have developed at PDP.  It is getting really good results with managers in G4S a FTSE 100 company.

Bring policies and procedures to life – Consultation

  1. Hold a full and frank meeting with the client. Explore the needs and wants they have. Look at the current provision that exists to helppolicies 2 bring policies and procedures to life. Have a focused discussion on the outcomes required and the preferred method of delivering that outcome.
  2. Agree what must be in the training and what is up for negotiation. Is it about the outcome or the methodology? The outcome is to bring the policies and procedures to life. The previous methodology was to use two days of meticulously prepared powerpoint slides delivered by great HR specialists. Could it be that the outcome may be better achieved using specialist educators and engaging activities?
  3. Cool thinking and planning period.
  4. Return to the client with a proposal to address the topics raised in stages 1 and 2.
  5. Pilot the proposal with a mixed group of real managers
  6. Use the pilot data and feedback to tweak the programme
  7. Diarise the delivery
  8. Evaluate and review the programme and it’s effectiveness on managers behaviours in the business


The Design.

How “bringing policies and procedures to life” comes to life!


policies and proceduresAfter client consultation, they chose our bespoke two day training programme, replacing their previous one which had been delivered by the  in-house HR specialists. We managed to reduce the powerpoint reliance from 148 slides to NONE. We used several of the brilliant case studies generated in-house and repositioned them to have greater impact.


Course beginnings, welcomes and objectives

Hearts and Minds

“The Grab” – Spheres of Influence, My responsibilities and duties, “Professional” attributes and behaviours. Behavioural Contract (see Previous Blog)

Personal values, professional values, conflicts and synergies. Understanding attitudes and behaviours (see our blog on Behaviours), the importance of Allports paradigm.

Policies and Procedures – Top Level

The Legal, Moral and Business case.

Recognising and understanding partnerships between Trades Unions and organisations. Why the unions and business share the desire for excellent work place behaviours and systems. Memoranda of Agreement.

Policies and Procedures – the vast array – taster session

Deciphering the difference between a policy and a procedure.

Exposure to a wide range of these, each delegate receives a policy and procedure to investigate and explain to the rest of the group. We deliberately chose a wide range of policies ranging from “time off for public duties” to “paternity leave”.

Policies and procedures – Specific Issues

The Master Class. Delegates placed into three groups and given the biggest issues for managers in the organisation. (As I am sure you understand those are confidential to our client!).  Groups self select their chosen area, depending on the manager’s perceived need. Teams spend a chunk of time discussing the policy, exploring the procedure and then presenting it back to the group as a whole. The presentations MUST be jargon free, showing charts, key times, rationale, potential pit falls and appeal details.

Case studies – Learning into practice

Suspension of a colleague – Who can, why they might, when they should.self-confidence

Three scenarios from the last year. What would you do? debrief in plenary

The Equalities Act 2010

Protected Characteristics – what they are.

How people are disadvantaged – Direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, discrimination by association, discrimination by perception, harassment, harassment by a third party, victimisation. Clearing the mist and explaining these in pertinent accessible ways.

Harassment at work

Case studies using the above, from real situations. As a manager what must you do? Individual work with group plenary.


So What? Trainer led discussion to identify specific actions from each delegate, time scales and willingness.

Closing Remarks.

The delegates loved the course.
It is starting to become the “must” attend event, waiting lists are growing and more events are diarised.
Contact Richard or Paula via the website if this approach is interesting to you and your business.

Staggering reduction in numbers for the unemployed!

Staggering unemployment results!

Getting the long term unemployed back to work

Government statistics yesterday told us that there were less than 2 million people unemployed. These are staggering unemployment results!  Is this just luck or a planned approach?  We worked with @protrainuk, last year on a pilot project as part of David Cameron’s agenda to try and get as many long term unemployed people back into work as possible.  Our project involved a combination of activities to raise their self-esteem and confidence, as well as enhance their core skills and the opportunity to gain a range of qualifications.   A tall order, especially when some of the participants could have fallen into the category outlined by Lord Freud as having “disabilities “, and so perhaps “could be paid as little as £2 an hour”

In relation to Lord Freud’s comment, the initial thing I noticed about working with this group, was the difference between who I thought I’d get on the course and who actually turned up.  My vision was coloured by the media who often portray this group of people as aggressive scroungers with violent dogs and unruly children. The type who you would see in the pubs all day, and who didn’t want to get a job unless it paid a minimum of £17,000 a year!

Unemployed or unemployable?

Don’t get me wrong, I did meet one or two people like that on this project, but the overwhelming majority were people who could have been you or I, who had experienced bad luck in work or their personal lives or suffered from mental health issues, from phobias, depression to full mental health breakdowns. On more than one occasion, I thought there but for the grace of God go I!  Would we be classed as having a disability and so be worth less in the job market?  In almost all cases, people WANTED to work, and would take any job, and had or were involved in voluntary work as well.Staggering unemployment results!

My role

For some individuals, our role was to challenge them, and say what they must do,  if they really wanted a job.  By offering constructive support most individuals in my groups rose to the challenge, and often began to think about what they could be and wanted to do.   We often were amazed during the mock interviews at seeing the change in people.  They were suited and booted and looked ready to tackle the world, and for these people being interviewed was as nerve racking as it got!  A significant number of my groups suffered from some form of panic attacks on the morning, but very few didn’t turn up, but went through the process, and tried their best to present themselves in as good a light as possible.
Myself and the other tutors ensured we built relationships with our groups, because we were going to be with them for a number of weeks and also to  be able to praise and support individuals when they felt they just couldn’t do it. Imagine what guts it took for them to enter a classroom environment with a load of other strangers in the first place. One man said to me, “You don’t know how many medical drugs I need to take just to be able to step foot outside of my front door”. Another told me “I have to fight with myself to come here everyday. My fear can be overwhelming”.  Some of these were the people that Lord Freud could have been referring to, and I must say, I felt passionate and proud of my involvement in this project, and honoured to meet some of these people, who had overcome so much anxiety and adversity to even get to my classroom door.  This took guts to do and probably was harder to overcome than the potential loss of some of their benefit, as was a sanction at the time, under the ‘Help to Work: New unemployment rules in force’.

The focus of the work we did with this group of clients, was no different to any we do with corporate training or personal coaching.  It still focused on developing individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and encouraging them to take risks in a learning environment. They developed key communication skills, both written and verbal, and also had the opportunity to gain accredited qualifications.  The only difference being, very few people thought this group would actually succeed in achieving these things.  They did!

What’s your view on how to help people return to work after a period of unemployment?  Contact Paula  @therealme_PDP

How can schools support children living in difficult conditions?

How can schools support children living in difficult conditions

This blog is written in response to a Linked In (Early Years Training Group) article by Leah Davies in which she questions how American schools can support children living in difficult conditions, citing homelessness as a key area.  My immediate response was that schools in the UK don’t face this same issue, as in my long career in education, as a teacher and through supporting children and young people with a range of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, I hadn’t come across “homeless children” before (which I associated with living on the streets), nor had schools highlighted  children living in this manner.How can schools support children living in difficult conditions?

I then realised how naïve this sounded, and researched the term “homeless children in the UK” and found a number of references to this group, but not necessarily referring to them living on the streets, but families staying in temporary accommodation, such as B&B’s, sleeping on friends floors and sofas or whole families sharing one room.  There is also reference to children living in domestic violence shelters. All of these situations I have come across and worked with both children and parents living in these conditions, but saw their situation as different to being literally homeless.How can schools support childrnen living in difficult conditions?

The issues facing these children are the same as Leah mentioned in her article, “Homeless families have no shelter of their own, are often hungry…live in emergency or transitional shelters”.   and from my experiences there is a distinct lack of space, few personal possessions and an underlying feeling of unease or fear of being threatened.  One mother living in a B&B with a baby and a 3 year old admitted to locking them in her bedroom when she went to have a shower,, to make sure they were safe and that no-one could get into her room.  How is that safe?  How can she be sure that neither child won’t harm themselves?  How can she have a shower in peace and relax?

How can schools support childrn living in difficult conditions?

A common problem for families living in these conditions, is their heightened sensitivity to what is happening around them.  They are not in a familiar environment, in a B&B they cannot control who stays in the room next door, and so may be housed with those who have drink, drug or anger issues, as well as mental health problems.  My child sleeps in a familiar bedroom, with familiar toys, the same routine and peace.  These children may be in rooms next to loud tvs, people shouting, swearing or arguingThe young people are not only sharing a room, but at times also a bed with their parents or siblings, so a restful night’s sleep is impossible!  The National Children’s Bureau  highlights how poverty and disadvantage will cause children to “lag far behind their more affluent peers in almost all areas of their lives”

How can schools support children living in difficult conditions?

There may be issues around concentrating in the classroom and so set short tasks requiring focused concentration, with a more practical activity or discussion to follow up on learning.  By changing the learning style, this can keep the child on task for longer.

Give the child space…

Acknowledge and arrange for the child to have ‘headspace’ or time to let off steam, if they are living in a noisy or cramped environment or have to be quiet so as no to upset or disturb those living around them.

Where can homework be done…

Be aware the child may need to complete homework during the day, due to not having a table or space to do so outside of school.  Ensure this can be achieved without the child missing much needed break times?

Involve appropriate professionals…

Involve the Senco and local agencies, with parental permission, to assist the family in their housing issue or to offer support in other ways.


Know and understand the family’s situation.  Don’t be embarrassed to find out.  You can’t support the child if you don’t understand the problems.

Be aware for things going missing…

There may be issues around ‘borrowing’ school items or those from other children, especially if the child has very few possessions of their own, or they get lost due to the transient nature of their living arrangement.  Provide the child with his or her own set of equipment, pencil, ruler etc that can be left in school .

Issues with sharing…

The child may have difficulty sharing, as they may feel the object will be taken away from them and not returned.  Use circle time to discuss the principles of sharing, and have class toys/equipment that are readily available for the child to use, especially when they need comforting or re-focusing after an outburst.

Anxiety issues coming to the fore…

Recognise the child may be suffering from anxiety and need a lot of reassurance, praise and appropriate reward systems to improve his or her self confidence and self esteem.

Focus on inappropriate behaviour…

Deal with temper tantrums and behaviour outbursts calmly but firmly.  Children whose home lives are vicarious and potentially chaotic need boundaries within which they can express how they are feeling safely, and in which the same responses to their behaviour will be given each time.

 How can schools support children living in difficult conditions?

Do you think children in your school or Nursery may be living in uncertain circumstances, and show their anxiety in their behaviour?

If so, get in touch with me for some fresh ideas!

Getting positive results from difficult situations – how do you get them?

Feedback picture

This article links to my last one on attitudes and behaviour, in which we looked at how emotional we can become when faced with a difficult situation.  This article focuses on turning difficult situations around by understanding attitudes and values and so someone’s behaviour.  The focus is on getting positive results from difficult situations.

If you remember the scenario I left you with:

I had a really difficult situation some time ago at work, delivering a course for a FTSE 100 company, on which a delegate asked me if he could leave on day 1 at 3:00pm. The organisation was really hot on finish times, they didn’t like courses finishing early, so I was in a awkward position. How did I get a positive result from this difficult situation?

To try and gain some thinking time, always a good idea, I asked the guy why he needed to leave at 3:00pm. He replied that he was a dog breeder, that his bitch was at a fertile time and he needed to be home by 5:30pm, because the owner of another dog was bringing him over to mate.

We previously looked at the difference between someone’s attitude and their behaviour.  Behaviours are real, and as such can be heard, seen or even felt.  In comparison, attitudes are the responses to situations that might drive someone’s behaviour, which we are not party to, and may not understand.

In this scenario the delegate is:Getting positive results from difficult situations

  1. Asking for two and a half hours off work
  2. Making a polite request
  3. Asking permission from someone that does not have the power to give it
  4. Making the request in a public forum


I really had to deal with points 1 and 3 in this scenario, because the impact of 4 on me would have been highly negative.  Again, how did I get a positive result from this negative situation?

The fact that the delegate was making his request politely, allowed me an opportunity to build our relationship through some direct praise, once I had responded to the request.

What should I do?  Which of the delegate’s behaviours needed to be changed or maintained?  In the first place, it was inappropriate to ask for two and a half hours off work at the start of the course, and secondly, for the delegate to ask the tutor, who couldn’t give permission to give exactly that!

What was the impact of that behaviour?  It put me in a difficult position, as all the other delegates might then have reasons to go early.  In addition,  the FTSE 100 company that commissioned the training expected all their staff to stay for the duration of the agreed course. It also delayed the start of the course for all fifteen people, which could have had an effect on the amount of time spent on certain aspects of the material.

How did this make me feel?

I felt frustrated, angry, annoyed, embarrassed, uneasy and worried.getting positive results from difficult situations

What did I need to see from the delegate in the future?  Evidence that the delegate understood the situation and the possible implication of asking me to give him leave to finish the course early.

Getting positive results from difficult situations


How did I do it? The problem solving model I used in this situation, was called the BIFF model, a method of giving assertive feedback to someone, and can be used in a range of situations.

So what did I do?

I said to the delegate “I’m not sure that you were aware, but when you asked me if you could leave at 3:00pm today…” (BEHAVIOUR)

IMPACT  “that put me in a difficult position. I have to run the course according to set criteria, finish at 5:30pm, which I am not allowed to vary. I have to be fair to everyone, and keep things on track with time. I have no management power to grant you time off”.

“I am FEELING really under pressure, frustrated and powerless in this situation”.

“If you need to go at 3:00pm then that is your choice, you need to take that up with your line manager, as I cannot grant you that time off.  Please don’t indicate that I said it was OK because I cannot say that. I have to inform your employer of your attendance at both morning and afternoon sessions. I would rather you stayed or re-booked the course”. (FUTURE)

 BIFF modelboxing glove







The outcome

This approach was much more effective than me telling him what I really felt about his request. The outcome was a really positive one, the rest of the group knew who was in charge and that I was being fair.   The delegate knew where the responsibility lay for his decision.  He decided to ask his wife to manage the canine date, and stayed on the course and was very positive throughout the two days.  The open and honest dialog had helped build our relationship.


So how do you go about getting positive results from difficult situations…

1) Think about what the person is  asking

2) Think about the behaviours they are displaying

3) Think about what they are doing and how they are doing it

DON’T waste your life trying to work out why they are doing it, as you won’t ever be right!


I’d be interested to hear your own experiences of using the BIFF model when giving feedback.


5 steps to running a successful parents’ support group

successful parents' support group

5 steps to running a successful parents’ support group

Reading an article regarding increasing parental involvement made me reflect on the value of setting up and running a successful parent’s support group, as early in the school year as possible.   As staff,  you will quickly become aware of those children who are engaging in  negative behaviours, and will begin trying to change that behaviour through rewards and sanctions, as well as talking 5 steps to running a successful parent's support groupto their parents about your concerns and trying to get them on board.

Some children are new to school life and are struggling to adapt to the formal nature of the setting and cry each time they are left or have regular tantrums throughout their time with you.  Some parents themselves are finding it difficult to leave their little ones,  cry at handover time, and are difficult to get out of the classroom.    I can look back on memories of cajoling parents into leaving their children, then moving onto guiding them to the classroom door, then physically shutting the door, whilst they yell around the frame “remember mummy loves you….the teacher will call me if you need me……I might just wait in the office for half an hour to check that they settle”.  These parents can be their child’s very reason for not settling!

Other children are familiar with school and the routines and are flexing their muscles.  Still others,  may have regularly displayed episodes of choosing to engage in negative behaviour, whilst some may have  an undiagnosed condition such as ADHD or Aspergers or other aspects of the autistic spectrum.


How do you engage parents in discussing their child’s inappropriate behaviour?

successful parent's support group

This is a tricky one, as often the parents you want to speak to are the very ones who ignore you!  More often than not, their own experiences of being at school are extremely negative and they want to avoid being in the building, meeting a teacher and discussing school work at all costs.  Their own academic skills may be poor and so they don’t want to show themselves up by displaying their lack of knowledge.  Add to this already long list of why these parents don’t want to engage with school, the fact that you are complaining about their child’s behaviour, and you can understand why they might blow up at your suggestion that they try that bit harder to help the school!

I have a background in SEN, especially focusing on social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) and worked both in schools and as part of a local authority behaviour support team. We spent many hours looking at the best ways to work with parents, ranging from formal meetings at school and the accompanying paperwork tying them into trying things at home, which inevitably failed, to having a cup of tea with them in a place they felt comfortable and discussing how to move forward together.  This took time and steps were slow, as we were working on a 1:1 basis.  I found one of the best ways was forming a support group with parents.  I deliberately use the term with, rather than for parents, as they have to feel both parties are on the same side, in order for real changes to be made.

5 steps to running a successful parents' support group

5 steps to running a successful parent’s support group

STEP 1 – Choose carefully the mix of parents who will be in the group.

Will you ‘invite’ parents to join the group, or will they choose to sign up with no suggestion from the school?

From my experience, you will find a number of parents willing to come to a parent’s support group, but will they be the right ones?  The ones who avoid coming to school, don’t return letters etc, will not put their names forward for this.

I’ve tended to ‘invite’ personally those who I want to attend and also mention it to those parents who appear anxious about their children or keen to help, but I have no real concerns over.  This mix ensures that I would not be talking at a group of parents, but that some would ask and answer questions as well. This reinforced the idea that we were actively seeking parental expertise to help change their children’s behaviour.  Also it doesn’t look like a “failing parents group”, as one mum suggested I was asking her to attend.


STEP 2 – Think carefully about the time of day, length and purpose of tsuccessful parent's support grouphe sessions.

These things can make or break a successful parent’s support group.  Parents will always come up with a reason to not attend boring school stuff, that they think has no relevance to them, and also where they will be told that they aren’t parenting their kids right.

The groups I’ve been involved with, trialled times and dates, and found that generally running the session straight after drop off or before pick up were the best times.  We also choose a day towards the end of the week, as often behaviour was getting worse at home as well as at school, and parents were more receptive to behaviour management ideas that they might try out of pure desperation!

The first session was only 30 minutes long, as we wanted it to be as painless as possible, and parents to feel pleasantly surprised when it appeared to be over quickly.  The next session was 45 minutes and then the others were 60 minutes long.  We tended to run them for half a term, and so recruitment began the half term before, in order to get maximum numbers attending the sessions.


STEP 3 – What’s in it for them?

A creche facility was offered for siblings, which initially  was in the same room as our parent’s support group.  This was for two reasons, firstly, to alleviate parental anxiety over what the younger ones were up to and who was looking after them.  We needed to build up trust.  Secondly, it was free childcare and gave them a break!  Thirdly, it meant if parents found the format to imposing, they could pretend to play/oversee their children, whilst still be in the room listening and hopefully contributing.  Fourthly, parents couldn’t cancel, because they had no one to look after their child.

We ensured we offered refreshments for both parents and the toddlers, including cakes for the parents rather than biscuits, as they  thought this was a treat.

Lastly, we arranged for their school based children to be brought to the meeting room, as then our support group sessions didn’t have tparent group wordso be cut short, with parents slowly drifting out.  This strategy also allowed parents to talk to one another after the more formal input and us to have ‘light touch’ 1:1’s with certain parents.


STEP 4 – Choose staff whom the parents like and respect and provide the necessary time for them to fulfil this role properly

My role  with schools was devising the programme for the parent support group project and then acting as the facilitator for each session with a member of school staff.  Choose carefully who that person will be.  The parents have to know this person and have some form of respect or positive opinion about them to start with, as well as feel they are quite high up the school pecking order.  The choices have often been the SENCO or Deputy Head.  These people have been released from some of their duties to allow them to focus on these children, including meeting parents informally throughout the week and checking on the progress of the children in the classroom/playground.

5 steps to running a successful parents' support group

STEP 5 – Gaining trust and building relationships

This is key if you want to work more intimately with parents.  This can be an uphill battle, due to the feelings parents may have about their own school experiences.  How do school staff begin to break down those barriers and build relationships with parents?  The success of your parent’s support group will depend on this.

In our first session,  we stuck to the 30 minute time slot and  asked parents for their experiences of school.  We ensured we had quotes from other parents that we could use, to demonstrate we  understood and had listened to and more importantly ‘heard’ how some parents may feel negatively about their school experiences.

Once we started, the parents offered their stories and we had a great deal of laughter and also some shocked gasps.  There was emotion in the room, but not highly charged, so it was easy to handle, if you were a skilled teacher or facilitator.  For parents to share these emotions, they must have that key member of staff who they know and reasonably like, as obviously I was new to them.

We kept the session light hearted and asked them for tips on how they managed their children’s behaviour at home. We validated each idea, as far as we could, and then translated it into what we could and couldn’t do at school, both through choice and legally!

We kept it as a discussion forum, then offered 1:1 sessions afterwards if parents wanted to discuss their individual child. Inevitably, it’s the nervous parents who come to see you, rather than the ones you needed to.  However, it meant there were always willing voices to share what strategies they had tried out during the next week.  This allowed us to become facilitators for only part of the session, rather than throughout, and the group began to talk to each other outside of the sessions and share ideas.

successful parent's support group

Each session we focused on a key behaviour issue, rather than a child and asked parents to comment if their child displayed that behaviour, which they inevitably did, and we could then add what we were seeing in school and strategies we used.  We  would explain how we wanted the parents to support us with changing the behaviour. Gradually parents moved from saying their child wasn’t a problem at home, to admitting they were, and often the behaviours were more extreme.  This led to some pro-active joint problem solving between home and the school.


5 steps to running a successful parents' support group

 Contact Paula at PDP to  plan a successful parent’s support group.

Behavioural contracting, the way forward.

Behavioural ContractingBehavioural contracting, the way forward

Have you ever been on a training course where someone has an axe to grind from moment one, and does it all the way through the course? Then behavioural contracting is the way forward  for you!

Why is behavioural contracting the way forward?

The purpose of a behavioural contract is to allow people the freedom to behave, in positive ways, so that they get the most from an event. Many of my colleagues view this as some kind of chore that has to be achieved, in the same way you would give out health and safety briefings.

I felt like this until about three years ago. On a day that I didn’t bother doing one!

Picture the scene.

A law enforcement organisation, middle and senior managers all of whom had been told to attend the session, but were there because of the “fear” of non-attendance, rather than the outside chance that they might learn something.

A particularly vocal individual suggested we get on with things, instead of going through the usual “crap”. So naively I did. The outcome, bickering, back biting and general anarchy.

It took me back to my earliest teacher training days when as a first year PE teacher I asked someone to throw me a basketball and a dozen 14 year old boys all threw the ball at me! NEVER AGAIN!

behavioural contracting

So I had to really lay the law down with the law enforcers and had a battle of a day, but rescued it.

So the learning?

Having been in a really difficult situation, I didn’t lose the group, but it was darn close. I vowed NEVER to be there again. I now take behavioural contracting, as the way forward really seriously. Every event that we do will include some aspect of the expected behaviours from delegates.

A typical outcome is shown here Behavioural contracting, the way forward the detail of the contract will vary from group to group, but the principle of having an influence over the behaviours of the group is critical. It enables anyone, from junior to senior colleagues to say ” hang on, we agreed we would listen, I don’t feel I am being listened to…” Powerful stuff.

So when someone starts the axe grinding what options are available? Obviously there are several, the most powerful one is where another delegate suggests that the behaviour is outside our agreement. This always leads to a brilliant discussion around acceptable behaviours, power and the greater good.

Occasionally when the transgressor is more senior it allows me to intervene without causing embarrassment.


No, not the big Japanese chaps. Sum Up and Move On. This methodology enables us to stay on track, to not go around the houses or down any pointless rabbit holes. In the agreement there is a tacit mention of this and when we might need it.

NOT using SUMO is like being in an endless “any other business” part of a meeting. Futile and demoralising.

Moving out of the classroom

Behavioural contracting, the way forward.  Many of my clients believe so, they have taken the principles out of the classroom and gone back to work t on team driven behavioural contracting.

How powerful would your workplace be if people really felt they could contribute without fear. What would that do to your levels of innovation?

PDP are here to help you get it right.  Contact us for advice.