The last two posts have focused on a TELL Gathering conversation where our group contemplated how to respond when a child talks back, or speaks inappropriately.
One of our subscribers shared her story after reading and thinking about these posts. She gave us permission to share this with you today:
When I was growing up, I learned that talking back to my parents resulted in discipline. Instead, I have been trying to teach my daughter (now 4) how to not talk back and ask questions when she didn’t want to do something I’d asked her to do.
So imagine my surprise when I asked her to do something and she flat out said, “No!” I think my first reactive thought was, “Excuse me?”
I paused for a minute and considered why she may be reacting this way. Had she heard another child at school respond that way to a teacher? Or maybe she saw it on TV and was just mimicking that behavior? This was not the way she typically responded to me.
I stopped right then what we were doing and told my daughter that it was not OK to speak to me that way. I mentioned that she might see other people speak that way, but that just saying “No” to me was not nice or polite. I reminded her that in our house we try and always be nice and polite. I also told her the next time there was something I asked her to do that she didn’t want to, that it was OK for her to ask me why she needed to do that task.
This made me wonder if talking appropriately to one another isn’t something we continue to work on throughout childhood? Throughout life? I quickly realized that just one conversation with my toddler isn’t enough. She needs to be reminded often, as often as possible, because she’s seeing other behaviors daily that might not be acceptable or appropriate. I have to teach her the difference and encourage her to make better choices about how to speak and act. I have to really listen to how she is speaking as well so I can help respond better. I also must listen when she is asking me questions and not give the silent “No” message if I ignore her. And, I must remember my love for her all the while.
First, I wish to thank this subscriber for sharing her story and her reflections. I hope she has given you a new idea for the next time your child talks back or responds inappropriately. The pause before we react is definitely a gem to keep in mind!
Also, I’m pretty sure many of us can relate to the “Excuse me” reaction, or the idea when we were growing up the message often was to just do as you are told.
These responses are less effective with children today because youth are exposed to so much information on a daily basis. Most children have more people in their lives to influence how they think and speak. They get information while at day care or school, from the media, or all public places, for that matter. They also get this information at home. All around youth today are non-examples and good examples how to interact with each other. How will the children learn there is a difference unless someone tells them?
Last, I wish to thank all subscribers who are reading and reflecting on the Show & T.E.L.L. posts. My prayer is the posts serve you all well.
In the last post, I asked how you would respond when your child talks back or when your child shows a negative side of himself. (Click here if you would like to read this Show & T.E.L.L. post.)
As some of you noted, context certainly matters: Where you are when this happens, the age of your child, the severity of the negative response, and your own state of mind are a few of the contextual considerations.
In the TELL Gathering discussed in the previous post, a mother told the story of a young boy, about 12 or 13, talking back to her at home. He was being disrespectful and not wanting to listen to her instructions.
The individuals in the TELL Gathering and Show & T.E.L.L. Blog subscribers seem to agree on these three ideas:
1) We need to address the situation before it becomes a habitual response.
2) We need to address this the moment we hear our child speaking inappropriately and not ignore it or bring it up later.
3) We must do this because we teach children how to interact with us by what we allow, expect, and model for them … starting at a very young age.
In summary, when a child interacts inappropriately, it s important to pause and teach, encourage, listen, and love a better way to communicate with you. If you don’t correct the talking back sooner than later, it may become a pattern, a way to respond when the child is experiencing a similar situation with you, or someone else.
In the TELL Gathering, we agreed the worst thing we do is to respond with anger, which reinforces a negative interaction. We also agreed we tend to do this too often. We just react with our first thought, saying something like, “How dare you speak to me that way!”
Once we realized that an angry response reinforces talking back behavior, we started thinking of a better way to handle this situation. How do we give the child a new thought, a better thought in moments like this? How do we redirect the talking back to a more acceptable talk?
Everyone agreed, the first thing to say – in kindness– is a comment about this not being the way your child will talk to you. Something like “Stop, you will not speak to me or any adult like that. Let’s try again.” That is, we should figure out how to model how we want our children to speak right then and there, and then let them try again.
One mom summed this up nicely by saying, “We must remember children were not born talking this way. They learn to talk by interacting with us, their parents, and others. And, right now there is a lot of negative talk out there on television, video games, and music. Kids talk to each other using that same language. I can see how we need to teach them if we want it to be any different.”
I’ve been sharing stories from TELL Gatherings (where adults unite to discuss how we can better t.e.l.l. the youth in our lives). I have participated in TELL Gatherings with four people to more than 20 people. They have lasted from an hour to nearly three hours. Some of TELL Gatherings are one-time meetings, others are with a small group that meet regularly.
The sole purpose of a TELL Gathering is to unite adults to inspire and mentor one another with ideas about how to t.e.l.l. children better. Tell Our Children is looking forward to having more TELL Gatherings in 2016. One of the things we are working on is creating materials so you can have a TELL Gathering in your home or school. If you are interested in getting more information about hosting or attending a TELL Gathering, drop us a line.
One conversation that often gets brought up during TELL Gatherings is how different children are today versus when we (the adults) were growing up. For example, one mom said, “I would have never spoken to my parents the way my son feels he can talk to me. We were raised to listen when an adult speaks, never talk back. Kids today think they can just talk back, often in a very rude way.”
So what typically happens at a TELL Gathering is a problem, or challenge, gets brought up. Then we talk about what children may think and feel in these moments. More times than not we realize the child is not trying to be negative, or rude, in this case. The child is merely trying to get some need met, and in that moment this is how he or she tries to make that happen. The child reacts with the first thought that comes to mind. The reaction may be something the child has heard others say and do, or just a comment that gets him or her out of the situation as quickly as possible. The child needs an adult to help re-think how to respond in the moment.
In this TELL Gathering, pretty much everyone there could recall a moment where a child reacted inappropriately. We also came up with moments where we reacted to a situation inappropriately, too!
Don’t we all have those moments, especially when we react with the first thought that comes to mind? Realizing that, most of the time, children are merely reacting helps me to be more forgiving. I realize that my child is giving me the first thought that comes to his or her mind. If I want a different response from my child, I have to step in and t.e.l.l. him better. If I react to his reaction, focusing on how wrong and inappropriate his behavior is right now, he walks away not knowing any better and is likely to repeat the behavior.
One of the main outcomes of a TELL Gathering is to find better ways to address the challenges we face when interacting with our children. We give each other ideas that may t.e.l.l. our children better the next time a similar situation arises. We want to teach, encourage, listen, and love for something better. We try to figure out how we can redirect the child’s inappropriate and/or negative behavior into something more positive — a new thought and new behavior to improve the child’s well-being.
What advice would you give a caregiver who wanted to positively address a child’s inappropriate response?
Send us a line. What would you suggest, or ask, if you were sitting in this TELL Gathering? What would be a better way to respond when a child speaks inappropriately? How would you t.e.l.l. this child to think and be better?
In the next post, I’ll share your answers, along with the ones we came up with in our TELL Gathering.
Schools play a critical role in teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving children. In one elementary school I visit, a student creed is cited at the end of every morning announcement. The creed focuses on students doing their best to learn and be respectful each and every day. What a great message to teach and encourage!
I observed one teacher require her students to say the creed with the administrator over the loud speaker. She even had students raise their hand, like a vow, as she along with the students recited the words.
Afterward, she asked one or two students to share how they will live by this creed today. One student said “I will make sure I listen in math.” Another, “I will keep my hands off Angel’s desk.” After a few more comments, the teacher finished this conversation by sharing some of the plans for the day. She said something along the lines of, “Good ideas. I’m glad Rakel mentioned listening in math because we are learning about fractions, which can be a little hard so it is important for you to listen and give your best effort. Also, in ELA we will be reviewing suffixes and prefixes. So far I believe you all have done really well giving your best effort. Let’s keep at it. OK, are we ready to start?”
What a great example of getting positive ideas into the students’ minds – teaching and encouraging them to learn that day. I asked this teacher if she had this conversation every day. She responded that she did in the beginning of the year. For the first few weeks she did it every day. Now she does it most days, especially when she feels they need a reminder. “It’s just a good way to get all of us focused on what we need to do while we’re here today, and me too! I think it really helps get the day started.”
It isn’t the creed alone that is effective here. It is the teacher role modeling and interacting with students about what the words mean. It is about her giving time to make the creed meaningful. She is t.e.l.l.ing them how to act out the creed.
In any interaction, it isn’t our words alone that help a child. It is giving the time to make sure what we are saying is meaningful to them. Meaningful in a way that makes the child better. Every time we interact, we t.e.l.l. – whether we realize it or not we teach, encourage, listen, and love to some degree – why not do it more intentionally. Why not think seriously about what and how you are t.e.l.l.ing?
Last week, we asked you to make this one of your 2016 resolutions, to t.e.l.l. your child better this year. If you accepted this challenge, please let us know in an email.
Do you need a daily reminder? Would you like a magnet to help you remember? They should be available in the next few months. If you would like one hot off the press, send us a message below or email us. Make sure you include your postal address in the message. We would also appreciate you sharing your thoughts about the Show & TELL blog, especially any questions you would like our Show & T.E.L.L. community to talk about in future posts.
The reminder to t.e.l.l. magnet is just one of the products we are producing in 2016. We’ll keep you posted.
Every day our goal is empower at least one more caregiver to t.e.l.l. a child better. Will you help us spread the word? Have you shared the Show & TELL blog with others? You can email this post to them or post it on your Facebook page.
Have a wonderful weekend. Keep t.e.l.l.ing your children!
In the last post, I shared how a group of us participating in a T.E.L.L. Gathering contemplated the question we often ask our children: “What’s wrong?” If you didn’t get to read that one, here’s the link!
At a different T.E.L.L. Gathering, a mother of a teenager brought up how her son just lost his third cellphone in a year. We’ll call her son Blake. The mother said, “I need Blake to have a phone so I can reach him, but since I keep buying him a new one, he isn’t feeling responsible to take care of his phone. There is always a reason for the phone being lost. The first time I agreed with him, it was stolen. The next two times he believes the phone was again stolen; however, I am trying to tell him he is leaving the phone places where others can take it. He doesn’t perceive it this way.”
Can you relate to this scenario where your child perceives the situation differently? Where the child wants to blame someone or something for a situation, it is completely out of their control. “It’s not my fault!”
We see what’s wrong here and the child does not. So we don’t ask what’s wrong like the last post, we want to tell them what’s wrong! Yet wouldn’t you agree most of the time our words go in one ear and out the other?
At this T.E.L.L. Gathering, there were a lot of ideas shared from this scenario. One of the most t.e.l.l.ing ideas mentioned was: How can we get the child to help solve the problem? Here are some of our ideas:
- Kindly point out because Blake keeps losing his phone, it makes you think he is not responsible enough to have one. You don’t want to keep buying a new one if he isn’t ready to take care of it.
- Mention how he learned to take good care of something else. In Blake’s case, it was his bicycle. That would help the child comprehend what we mean by learning to take care of something.
- Let the child know you believe he will learn at some point to take care of his phone, too.
- Brainstorm with the child what can be done today. In this case, we thought it would be good to talk about other ways Blake and his mom can communicate while he doesn’t have a phone. We also thought it would be good to talk about how Blake can start saving money to buy his next phone.
Blake’s mom chuckled and said, “Well, I’m not going to tell you what I did.” Then she shared how she blew up at Blake and the very next day went and bought him another phone.
But, after talking this over with our group, she decided to have the more t.e.l.l.ing conversation with Blake. A conversation where she would teach, encourage, listen, and love Blake to make a better choice when it comes to taking care of his things.
In a follow-up conversation, she shared how she went home and told Blake she thought it was best to not let him have the phone just yet. Of course, Blake was first confused and wondering why she was taking away his phone now. He had done nothing wrong. They talked through many of the above points. In the end, Blake understood better and became focused on getting his phone back and keeping it. Now he was ready to solve this problem. She said it took a little less than two weeks.
The key is for us to remember our perception of a situation and the feelings we experience are almost always going to be different than the child’s. Involve their perception and feelings when you interact. Try to understand and develop the child’s ideas more than trying to get them to understand your thinking. That is how you t.e.l.l. them to grow up better.
In closing, if you think this Show & T.E.L.L. post may help someone you know, forward it to them in an email by using the email link below. You can also put the post on your Facebook page, Twitter, and other social media by using the links.
In our last post, we talked about how we should all resolve to t.e.l.l. our youth better this year. Did you add this to your list of goals for 2016? Did you have a conversation with a friend or two about helping one another t.e.l.l. your children? Click here if you want to read the new year post.
Last year, we started having T.E.L.L. Gatherings, meetings where adults unite and share ideas how we can better teach, encourage, listen, and love the youth in our lives. At one of these gatherings, a parent made the comment: “I wonder if children misunderstand us when we ask, ‘What’s wrong?’”
We were discussing how children’s thoughts are emotionally guided, and how rational thinking matures later in life (some studies say around age 25). The father began to wonder if his question – “What’s wrong?” – may cause his child’s mind to focus on problems, even thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” We also considered whether a younger child could even answer this question? How often do we expect a child to provide us with a rational explanation or a clear answer when his or her mind is mired in emotion? Maybe we can think of a better question.
The group decided maybe a better response would be to validate the child’s emotions first – “Honey, are you sad?” – or maybe try and do something to connect emotionally with the child – notice and give a look, a hug, or helping hand, something that may lessen the current struggle the child is experiencing.
We want to know what’s going on with the child so we can help. “What’s wrong?” seems like a natural question, but in this gathering, we came to the conclusion we can help by showing the child we notice and care about how he or she feels. Instead of asking him or her to explain what is wrong, we can figure it out by paying closer attention to what is happening in the moment, by loving, by showing care and kindness. A child at any age responds to care and kindness. Maybe we don’t need to hurry up and fix things in that moment.
I am curious to hear what you think about this group’s decision; send us a line if you would like to contribute or respond to this conversation!
As we said in our last post, one of our goals this year is to introduce a conversation thread in the Show & T.E.L.L. post so our subscribers may continue the conversation right here. This is just one of the ways we hope to unite and inspire more caregivers to t.e.l.l. children. Another goal is to hold more T.E.L.L. gatherings. If you are interested in organizing a T.E.L.L. gathering or want to know more about this service, please send us a note.
Stay tuned, stay connected! And, please, tell others about Tell Our Children!