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!
This post is in response to CE’s post from Tuesday, in which she shared with us how obvious and difficult at times it is to remember how the emotional filter is steering the mind of her three-year-old. Click here if you want to read this post first.
Even though CE talks about this from a toddler perspective, this is something we need to consider throughout childhood, through the teen years and even into young adulthood. Our children think ideas predominately based on their emotions in that moment.
Contrast that with the more mature adult mind; we can often think past the emotions. Haven’t you had a moment where you think, “I wanted to say something, but I didn’t.” This can happen when you’re feeling fantastic and you want to say something but it’s just not appropriate, so you refrain. Or the other extreme is you may be feeling angry and frustrated, and you know it’s just best to keep the comment silent, for your mind only. These are examples of when you thought past your emotions. You allowed your logical, rational thinking to control what you said and did in that moment.
I am going to assume you have also had a time or two where you interacted purely with emotions. Those moments when you are feeling great and you just express it! When it is well received, wonderful. When it is not, you may question your reactions. And similarly, when you react with anger or frustration and it doesn’t go well, you may think, “What happened?”; “How should I have said it differently?”; “Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut!” This is your logical, rational mind taking over!
Here’s what we must realize: Because our children have a more immature mind, they interact with emotion first and foremost, and continuously. Biologically, they are slowly developing the ability to think rationally and logically. All those questions I mention above that we may think naturally, the child’s brain isn’t wired to do that for quite some time! Their thoughts are dominated by how they feel in that moment.
I have learned in my years of studying adult-children interactions that when adults include emotions as part of the interaction, the child is more willing to talk. The conversation becomes more personal and productive for the child.
For example, on the positive side, when we bring up the happiness, or good feelings, by saying something along the lines of “It’s great to see how excited you are about…” Or, in the other extreme, when the feelings are more negative, “I sense your frustration” or with an even younger child “I see you’re sad.” Do not ask “Why are you upset?” or “Why are you frustrated?” The answer requires a rational, logical response. It is usually difficult for the younger mind to answer these direct questions; however, the adult mentioning the emotion allows the child to say “yes” or “no,” which starts the interaction. Think emotion first; once you are on the same page emotionally, then you can begin to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love the child rationally.
The younger child will have a tendency to begin talking right away. As children mature, the emotions may still be dictating their mind, and they may not want to talk rationally right then. Time and space may be needed. If you can allow the time and space, a comment such as “I am here when you want to talk” may be what is needed to calm the emotions.
As CE mentioned, this all can be difficult to remember, especially when we are reacting emotionally. Emotions are part of being human, a great part of being human! As we grow up, living through childhood, we learn to think both emotionally and rationally. Let’s remember our children think and act more on emotions. Through childhood, they will develop the ability to think emotionally and rationally.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to add a Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! This weekend I hope you receive and/or give gratitude for the hard work it takes being a mom! You are the ones who are trying. I am grateful for the teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving moms out there!
In our previous blogs, we pointed out several reasons why interactions between adults and children can often fail. The second reason we outlined was:
2) The adult does not realize the younger mind is being steered more by emotion than by rational ideas. Adults tend to focus on fixing the child’s thinking using rational thoughts. Current research has made it clearer that individuals under the age of 25 are more likely to be thinking with an emotional filter.
Out of everything I have learned thus far about adult-child interactions (via first-hand experience and TELL Our Children), this one was the simplest to understand but the hardest for me to adjust.
I’ve always been a pretty rational thinker and not one to emote much. My mom says I get it from my father, a career Marine. No matter where I got it from, I’ve always thought it was easier and more practical and efficient to respond to a situation instead of react. That’s how I approach life regularly, whether at work, in relationships, when trying to solve problems, etc.
So imagine my frustration when I try to approach a conversation with my three-year-old in the same manner! I’m coming from a place of reason and logic; she is coming from a place of pure emotion. In fact, it is likely impossible for her to come from any place except emotion. She has a grand total of three years of experience in life thus far, and that experience is largely made up of her crying about something as a baby and getting a response from the adults around her. She had no other way to communicate for the first year or so of her life, and communicating in that way eventually got her what she wanted or saw her needs met.
It’s up to me to show her and teach her how to balance reacting (emotion) and responding (rationale) as she grows up. To do that, I have to understand that for the time being (and probably for a while yet), she is going to react emotionally to just about everything, whether that emotion is sadness, happiness, anger, etc. By understanding that, I can make sure I don’t react in return; i.e., if she gets angry about something, I don’t get angry right back. I have to realize she may need something from me right then. I need to figure out how she is feeling first, and then I can be better at giving her the guidance she needs. I have realized when both of us become upset or angry, neither of us understands the other and absolutely nothing positive gets accomplished.
Perhaps an over-simplified way that I’ve been able to remember this is to remind myself regularly that she’s the child, and I’m the adult. I have much more experience, knowledge, and capabilities than she does, so I have to act like it. It is impossible for her to meet me at my level, so I have to meet her at her level. When I remember to do that, our interaction is much better. I feel like we truly connect.
In our previous two blogs, we pointed out several reasons why interactions between adults and children can often fail. The first reason we outlined was:
1) The adult point of view dominates the conversation. The younger mind does not have the understanding to imagine what the adult is talking about. The adult may be using words the child understands, even speaking calmly and patiently; however, the child has not developed the thoughts to fully imagine what is being said. The adult point of view takes for granted too many thoughts that are unknown by the child.
As a parent, it is easy to think that your child understands what you’re saying, especially if you are using a calm voice and are talking slowly and deliberately. You can see your child is looking at you as you’re speaking, and maybe even nodding his head as if he understands. I’ve even specifically asked my daughter, “Do you understand?” and she’ll respond with a “yes ma’am” and then proceed to disobey me or ask me a question about what I just explained. It can get frustrating to have to repeat myself several times, as I’m sure you’re aware if you’ve ever interacted with toddlers.
However, it immediately became less frustrating for me once I realized that my daughter doesn’t have the same grasp of concepts (and even some words or phrases) that I do, no matter how smart I think she is for her age. How could she? She is only three, after all, and has only accumulated three years of experience in life compared to my 29. I can speak as calmly or as slowly as I want or repeat things over and over again, but if I’m talking about something that she hasn’t truly learned about yet, I might as well be talking to a wall.
Just because I know what I mean when I say something like, “Don’t walk into the road, please” doesn’t mean my daughter knows what I mean by that. I don’t want her going into the road for her own safety. But she doesn’t know that getting hit by a car would hurt — she’s never seen anything get hit by a car and seen for herself the damage it could cause.
Just because I know what I mean when I say something like, “Please don’t pull on the dog’s ears like that,” doesn’t mean she understands that it hurts the dog, especially if he’s a patient dog and doesn’t cry out or snap at her.
Just because I know what I mean when I hold my finger to my lips or hold my hand up for quiet when I’m on the phone doesn’t mean she understands that I need her to be quiet for a minute.
As the adult with much more life experience and knowledge, it is up to me to understand what my child does and doesn’t know. It is up to me to Teach her what she doesn’t know, to Encourage her to learn more and try new things, to Listen when she is trying to tell me something about her world, and to Love her through it all.
When you T.E.L.L., your words share your point of view AND more importantly, your words allow you to connect with the child’s thoughts and feelings.
There is a difference in telling your child and T.E.L.L.ing your child. When you tell, you are merely sharing your current thoughts and feelings with the child. You hope what comes out of your mouth is said in such a way the child hears and understands your words. In summary, when you tell a child, you are communicating a one-way message. It is to the child from you. These conversations may, or may not, benefit a child.
On the other hand, when you T.E.L.L. a child, your intent is to try and make it a two-way interaction. Your point of view and the child’s point of view are taken into consideration. You pause and think about what the child might be feeling and thinking in the moment. If possible, you might even ask questions to be sure you are clear about what he or she is thinking and feeling in that moment. When you T.E.L.L., your words share your point of view AND more importantly, your words allow you to connect with the child’s thoughts and feelings.
We have shared a few T.E.L.L.ing stories in previous blogs. For example, one where a mom is trying to get her three-year-old daughter to clean up (click here to read this); or a mom who put her young son in time out (click here to read this story); there is also a story of a father and teenage son talking about lying (click here to read this story).
Do you have a story about interacting with your child? If you are willing to share it, please email us at (contact@tellourchildren).
You may also send an email if you have a question or comment. This is one way we can begin having more two-way conversations with our readers! We want to do whatever we can to T.E.L.L. you about interacting with children. We hope to hear from you soon.