“Breathe” was written and produced by Ezekiel Miller and Isaiah Conaway, two students at the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, MN. According to the YouTube blurb, the song “was inspired by the research being done around the causes of traumatic stress on children’s brains ages 0-3 years old. This information needs to be delivered to the youth to effect change and Ezekiel and Isaiah chose music to be the vessel.”
Jarrod Green is a preschool teacher in Philadelphia who posts on a blog called “If I Ran the Circus“. Yesterday he linked to the story I wrote about Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, and noted that changing its policy from merely punishing bad behavior to determining what the behavior means, helping a teen understand the connection, working with the teen to find healthier ways to cope with stress and build resilience, and still adding consequences for the behavior “sounds remarkably like standard practice in high-quality preschools.”
His whole post is definitely worth reading. Here’s a vignette he provided that will melt your heart.
I remember a hitting incident in my 3′s classroom once where the hitter seemed more upset about it than the hit-ee. Instead of saying “You may not hit” or “Why did you do that,” I did some quick thinking about what I knew about the child. I knelt down and said quietly, “Are you thinking about your mom because she’s out of town?” The child nodded and fell into my arms. “I know,” I said, “It’s hard when she goes away. Let’s make sure your friend is okay, and then we’ll sit together and write your mom a letter.” (Note that, for a teacher to be successful at this strategy, it helps to know what’s going on at home.)
The important thing to note is that, under some circumstances and on some days (and for some severely traumatized people, under most circumstances on most days), teenagers are just very large versions of three-year-olds. So are adults.
We know that people use many different substances and activities to cope with the toxic stress produced by suffering adverse childhood experiences. Those substances and activities include, but are not limited to, methamphetamine (which was once prescribed as a legal antidepressant in the U.S.), alcohol, tobacco, food (especially fats and sugars), sex, thrill sports, exercise and even working too much.
By preventing childhood trauma and by changing our systems — such as education and health — to avoid traumatizing already traumatized people, we’d save billions of dollars. Billions. Never mind the increase in the number of healthier, happier people in the world.
Take prisons. Face the Facts USA, a nonpartisan information resource from the Center for Innovation at The George Washington University, a did a slide show called “U.S. is the World’s Imprisonment Capital“. Some pertinent facts:
It costs about $60 billion a year to keep state and federal prisoners behind bars. States shoulder the biggest share, 85 percent or $51 billion. Federal prison costs are 15 percent or close to $9 billion.
Among federal inmates in 2010: about half (51 percent) were serving time for drug offenses, 35 percent for violations of “public order” offenses like weapons charges or immigration law violations, and less than 10 percent each for violent and property offenses.
Even these days, when a 14-year-old girl gets pregnant, popular opinion says she’s a loser or stupid, and she deserves whatever happens to her. She often ends up in juvenile detention, on the streets or living with someone who abuses her.