Sundarrajk's Weblog

How to talk to Children so they can learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Posted on: August 22, 2016



Children need to have their feelings acknowledged

Child: “Just because of a few careless mistakes, I got only a seventy!”
Adult: “Don’t worry. You’ll do better next time”.
Instead of dismissing the child’s feelings, you can:
1.       IDENTIFY THE CHILD’S FEELINGS
a.       “You sound disappointed. It can be upsetting when you know the answer and lose points for careless mistakes”.
2.       ACKNOWLEDGE THE CHILD’s FEELINGS WITH A SOUND OR WORD
a.       “Oh” or “Mmm” or “Uh” or “I see”
3.       GIVE THE CHILD IN FANTASY WHAT YOU CAN’T GIVE HIM IN REALITY
a.       “Wouldn’t it be great if you had a magic pencil that would stop writing if you were about to make a mistake.”
4.       ACCEPT THE CHILD’S FEELING EVEN AS YOU STOP UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR
a.       “You’re still angry about that grade, you’re kicking your desk! I can’t allow that. But you can tell me more about what’s upsetting you. Or you can draw it.”

Engaging Cooperation

Adult: Who is responsible for the mess on this floor?
Instead of questioning and criticising, you can:
1.       DESCRIBE THE PROBLEM – When it happens the first time
a.       “I see wet paint all over the floor”
2.       GIVE INFORMATION – When the child does not know this for a fact
a.       “It’s easier to remove paint before it dries”
3.       OFFER A CHOICE – When the child does not take immediate action
a.       “You can clean it up with a wet rag or a damp sponge.”
4.       SAY IT WITH A WORD OR GESTURE – When this repeats
a.       “The paint!”
5.       DESCRIBE WHAT YOU FEEL – When it repeats too many times
a.       “I don’t like seeing the floor splattered with paint”.
6.       PUT IT IN WRITING – When it repeats too many times
a.       ATTENTION ALL ARTISTS: Kindly restore the floor to original condition before leaving the room. Thank you, The Management
7.       BE PLAYFUL (Use another voice or Accent) – When the child responds to this technique
a.       In a country-and western style sing
                                                               i.      Ah see paint thar on the floor,
                                                             ii.      An’ it’s a sight ah do deplore
                                                            iii.      Git out your mop an’ rags galore
                                                           iv.      An’ help to do this little chore

Alternatives to Punishment

Child: Oh !@#%^#%@^% I can’t do math
Adult: I warned you over and over again not to use foul language. Now you’re going to be punished.
Instead of threatening punishment, you can:
1.       POINT OUT A WAY TO BE HELPFUL
a.       “I hear your frustration. It would help if you could express it without cursing”
2.       EXPRESS YOUR STRONG DISAPPROVAL (WITHOUT ATTACKING, CHARACTER)
a.       “That kind of language upsets me”.
3.       STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
a.       “I expect you to find some other way to let me know how angry you are”
4.       SHOW THE CHILD HOW TO MAKE AMENDS
a.       “What I’d like to see is a list of some strong words you could use instead of the ones you just did. Try the dictionary or thesaurus if you need help”
5.       OFFER A CHOICE
a.       You can curse to yourself – in your head – or you can use words that won’t offend anyone.
6.       LET THE CHILD EXPERIENCE THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS BEHAVIOUR
a.       “When I hear those words, I lose all desire to help you – with math or anything else”.

Problem Solving

1.       LISTEN TO THE CHILD’S FEELINGS AND NEEDS.
a.       Adult: You seem very upset about failing your Spanish test.
b.      Child: I am!  I only got twelve words right out of twenty, and I studied for an hour last night!
2.       SUMMARIZE THE CHILD’S POINT OF VIEW
a.       You sound pretty discouraged. Even though you tried to cram all those new words into your head, some of them refused to stick.
3.       EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS AND NEEDS
a.       My concern is that if you don’t memorize the basic vocabulary, you’ll get further and further behind.
4.       INVITE THE CHILD TO BRAINSTORM WITH YOU
a.       I wonder if we put our heads together, could we come up with some new and more effective ways to study?
5.       WRITE DOWN ALL THE IDEAS – WITHOUT EVALUATING
a.       Child: Drop Spanish
b.      Adult: I’ve got that. What else?
c.       Child: Maybe I could …
6.       TOGETHER DECIDE WHICH IDEAS YOU DON’T LIKE, WHICH YOU DO, AND HOW YOU PLAN TO PUT THEM INTO ACTION
a.       Adult: What do you think of making flash cards and studying only four new words each night?
b.      That’s okay. But instead of flash cards, I like the idea of saying my words into a tape recorder and testing myself until I know them.

Helpful Praise/Constructive Responses

Child: Listen to my poem about a train. Tell me if it is good
Adult: Beautiful! You’re a great poet.
Instead of evaluating, you can:
1.       DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SEE.
a.       “You caught the ‘chug-a-chug’ rhythm of the train and you found a way to rhyme ‘track’ with ‘clickity-clack’”
2.       DESCRIBE WHAT YOU FEEL
a.       “It makes me feel as if I’m sitting inside a railroad car speeding through the countryside.
Adult: Look at those misspelled words! You can do better than that.
Instead of criticising, you can:
3.       POINT OUT WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
a.       “All this poem needs now is the correct spelling of the words ‘caboose’ and ‘freight’ and it’s ready for bulletin board”

Freeing a child from playing a role

Adult: “Nicole, you’re a “motor mouth”. No one can get a word in edgewise with you”.
Instead of labelling a child, you can:
1.       LOOK OUT FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO SHOW THE CHILD A NEW PICTURE OF HERSELF
a.       “What self control! Even though you had a lot more to say, you realised that others needed a chance to talk.”
2.       PUT THE CHILD IN A SITUATION WHERE SHE CAN SEE HERSELF DIFFERENTLY
a.       “Nicole, I’d like to you to chair the (class/family) meeting and make sure that everyone gets a turn to speak”.
3.       LET THE CHILD OVERHEAR YOU SAY SOMETHING POSITIVE ABOUT HER
a.       “Nicole has so many wonderful ideas that it is hard for her to hold back. Nevertheless I’ve seen her do it”
4.       MODEL THE BEHAVIOUR YOU’D LIKE TO SEE
a.       “Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Please finish what you were saying. My though will keep”.
5.       REMIND THE CHILD OF HER PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS
a.       “I remember the discussion we had on capital punishment. You listened quietly, but when you finally gave your views, some people changed their positions”.
6.       STATE YOUR FEELINGS AND/OR EXPECTATIONS
a.       “Nicole, when other people are waiting to speak, I’d like you to keep your comments brief”.

The Ideal Conference (PTA)

Instead of starting with what’s wrong …
1.       START BY DESCRIBING SOMETHING RIGHT
a.       Teacher: I enjoy Sam’s thoughtful questions
b.      Parent: Sam liked the lesson you gave on rockets
Instead of pointing out what the child hasn’t done …
2.       DESCRIBE WHAT THE CHILD NEEDS TO DO
a.       Teacher: Sam needs to make up all the work he missed the week he was out sick.
b.      Parent: I think he’s feeling overwhelmed. He can probably use some extra help to catch up.
Instead of withholding information …
3.       SHARE PERTINENT INFORMATION
a.       Parent: He used to play outdoors when he got home. Now he just sits in front of the TV.
b.      Teacher: I see him yawning a lot lately in the class
Instead of giving each other advice …
4.       DESCRIBE WHAT HAS WORKED AT HOME OR IN SCHOOL
a.       Parent: Ever since he’s been sick, he seems to do better if he takes a short break every fifteen or twenty minutes.
b.      Teacher: I notice he has more energy after recess.
Instead of giving up on the child  
5.       DEVELOP A PLAN TOGETHER
a.       Teacher: I’ll ask another student to help Sam with the work he missed. And I’ll see to it that he takes more frequent breaks.
b.      Parent: And I’ll make sure he watches less TV and gets some fresh air and exercise.
Instead of ending on a negative note …
6.       END THE CONFERENCE WITH A POSITIVE STATEMENT THAT CAN BE REPEATED TO THE CHILD
a.       Teacher: Tell Sam I have confidence that he’ll be able to make up his work. Also tell him that I enjoy having him in my class.
b.      Parent: I will. I know he’ll be glad to hear that.
Instead of forgetting the plan after the conference …
7.       FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE PLAN
a.       Teacher: Jeffrey has been helping Sam and he’s almost all caught up. He also seems to have more energy lately.
b.      Parent: My husband has started jogging and Sam has been joining him.

Some Excerpts

1.       “The plain fact is that when students are upset, they can’t concentrate. And they certainly can’t absorb new material. It we want to free their minds to think and learn then we have to deal respectfully with their emotions.”
2.       Do not be over bearing or pamper the child. A mother “Well … when Lara comes home from school, I make her show me her assignments and I go over them with her and help her get organized. This afternoon I took her to the library and we picked out some excellent books for her report on Eleanor Roosevelt” Teacher was horrified and thought to herself, Lara is a reasonably capable student. The purpose of my homework assignments was to give her and the other children a chance to organize their own time, to work independently, to exercise their own judgement. As tactfully as she could, she said “It seems to me that the best kind of help we can give children is indirect help. Provide a quiet place to work, a good light, a dictionary, a snack if they are hungry, and just be available if they want to ask you something.”. The mother was unconvinced. So the teacher suggests “How would you feel about establishing a nightly routine with Lara? She could either work alone in her room or maybe somewhere near you, and little by little you could make yourself scarce and let Lara take over.” “I wish it were that simple,” Lara’s mother said with some irritation. “but the plain fact is, she won’t do her homework if I don’t keep after her. She “. “Please don’t take offense” another woman interrupted “but I don’t think you’re being fair to your daughter. My mother used to hound me about my homework every night and hover over me to make sure that I did it all and got it right. Sometimes she’d take over and do it for me. After a while I wouldn’t even start my homework unless my mother was there. I guess on some level I figured that as long she was being responsible for me, I didn’t have to be responsible for myself. So that’s my reason for having a “hands-off” homework policy with my daughter.” Lara’s mother looked bewildered. “You mean you never help your child with her homework?” “Well if she’s stuck, I’ll listen to what’s bothering her and try to get her unstuck. But the second she gets going again, I bow out. I want her to know what she’s the one in charge of her homework and that she’s basically CAPABLE OF DOING IT HERSELF”. “That’s assuming she is” Lara’s mother persisted. “But what if she isn’t?”. Without hesitating the woman blurted out “Then get outside help – a tutor, a high school student – or tell her to call another kid in the class. Anything to avoid what happens when parents take over and become ‘passionate’ about their children’s homework”.
3.       When we invite a child to join us in tackling a problem, we send a powerful set of messages:
a.       “I believe in you”
b.      “I trust your ability to think wisely and creatively”
c.       “I value your contribution”
d.      “I see our relationship not as ‘all powerful grown-up’ exercising authority over ‘ignorant child’ but as adult and child who are equal, not in competence, not in experience, but in equal dignity”.
e.      “If there is one thing we can guarantee all of our children, now and in future, it’s problems – sometimes one right after the other. But by teaching them how to approach a problem, by showing them how to break it down into manageable parts, by encouraging them to use their own ingenuity to resolve their problems, we are giving them skills they can depend upon for the rest of their lives.”
4.       One way to avoid blame is to shun the accusing you. “You kids never … You always …  The trouble with you is … “ Instead substitute I for a you. For example “Here’s what I feel. I get upset when … What I’d like to see is …” As long as they are not being attacked, children can listen to your feelings without becoming defensive.
5.       We need to treat children not as they are, but as we hope they will become.
6.        
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