Student Restraint as an Act of Compassion and Kindness

Teacher Talk: Regarding Physical Restraint

I have been through several Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) classes in which I have been taught how to manage the behavior of children who have reached a state where they are “out of control” through Nonviolent Crisis Intervention. Many people mistakenly assume that this process of restraint is punitive in nature, a consequence administered because of a specific behavior pattern. However, this passage from a textbook I am currently reading captures the true essence of what should be involved when a student must be restrained in terms of the actions and behaviors of the one doing the restraining.

Perhaps no children are more concerned with their physical and emotional well-being—and perhaps their continued existence—than children who have lost control of themselves in a tantrum. These children feel totally and absolutely helpless. They simply cannot control their physical and verbal behaviors. On such an occasion, physical restraint is not only necessary but a kindness. The child is held until calm. The teacher communicates physically and verbally to the child in a calm voice or whisper. The teacher communicates to the child, “You are safe; I will protect you; I will not let you harm yourself (Shea & Bauer, 2012).”

Restraining a student is never the automatic g0-to option.  The primary focus of training courses, such as CPI, is to become more aware of antecedents that may lead to increased anxiety and acting out behaviors and how adults can effectively respond to those stages of increasing anxiety in ways that can stop a student’s behavior from escalating to the point of needing to be restrained.  However, at times when restraint must be applied it is important to remember that this response may provide the student opportunity to experience security, compassion, and kindness at a time when it is needed most. 



Shea, T. M. & Bauer, A. M. (2012). Behavior management: A practical approach for

educators. (10th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.



  1. Dave, I loved the words that were used here when the student was restrained. I also find it interesting that they say it is kind to do this to a student in spite of the fact that at that moment the student might be madder than anything at you for doing this. I know it is true; that no one wants control more than the child/person who can’t control their emotions. I have known a girl who hated herself and blamed herself for everything because she did not have control. Now as a young adult, she has learned why she always responded that way and is still learning ways to better control herself. These people need compassion; so I agree with this article. It is kind to restrain someone who is out of control; provided it is done from compassion and not anger! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Dave,
    As someone who has worked for years with students who have emotional and behavioral challenges I love this. Many adults do not remember what it is like to feel like you have absolutely no control over your body and emotions, that you have stopped thinking and are simple reacting, like you are watching yourself do things and have no ability to stop, but the reality it must be like being trapped in a car that is rolling down the side of a mountain and you have no idea when it is going to stop or how.
    Restraining a child is an emotionally painful experience for me as an educator and an adult because it speaks to the fact that as much as I have attempted to keep them safe and teach them the skills to keep themselves safe I have failed to completely understand what is going on for them and to protect them. You are right, restraint should never be about punishment or used in anger. It is truly about safety and safely regaining control. What most law makers have failed to understand that for some children physical restraint is truly needed, and that many of the children whose parents have testified in front of congress were not restrained they were abused.


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