Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top 5 Phrases Parents and Teachers Should Avoid Using

Before I had Little C I taught in preschool classrooms for 12 years. There are some things that I constantly heard teachers telling their students which drove me CRAZY! These are my top 5:

  1. You can't say no (to me). Most of us have said this phrase in some form or other at least once in our lives. And as much as the word no gets really irritating when you hear it over and over and over, children should learn to say it. If someone is doing something they don't like or asks them to do something they don't feel comfortable with - whether it's a friend, relative, teacher, stranger or you - they should say no! When you're really frustrated with the no chorus, just think that the more they practice it now the easier it may be for them to say it when it really matters.
  2. Say "I'm sorry." I'm not saying it's not important to apologize, but that apologizing in itself is not enough. Children learn quickly to simply say "I'm sorry" when they do something wrong and move on without wasting a second to think about their actions (and often repeating the behavior soon after). If you want children to learn to be responsible and respectful, you need to point out to them what they did, what the consequences of their actions were and how they can help fix the situation. For example, if your child hits someone show them that the other person is upset because they are hurt. You can go so far as to point out how you know the other person is hurt and upset (they are frowning, crying, holding the arm that was hit...) then have your child think what he can do to make the other person feel better (give them a hug, get them some ice...). Finally, a complete apology includes promising not to repeat the behavior. "I'm sorry, I won't hit you again." That's not to say they'll never repeat the behavior, but at least it helps them understand cause and effect better and build empathy and accountability.
  3. Don't be a tattletale. "Emily untied her shoe." "Billy took a book off your shelf." "Henry said my shirt's ugly." "Jessica stuck her tongue out at George." Annoying I know, but like much of early childhood, learning often wears on the patience of the caregiver. Keeping track of others and noticing when they break rules is a preliminary step to being aware of themselves and whether or not they are breaking rules. Sometimes, a child may see a classmate breaking a rule and be completely oblivious to the fact that they are, in fact, breaking the same rule. Be comforted in the knowledge that this phase won't last forever! If the tattling gets really out of hand you can introduce a tattle buddy (a picture or toy) who would love to hear everything that is going on. Just remember that sometimes the tattler may tell you something important you may not have noticed or be indirectly asking for your help in resolving a problem.
  4. We're all friends. Whether your child is in school or just attending a class, party or playgroup, they may run into some trouble with another child. A young child's first response when someone upsets him is often "I'm not your friend!" To which I've heard teachers often respond, "We're all friends." Are you friends with everyone you work with? Probably not. Is it unreasonable to expect a child to be friends with all the children around him? Absolutely. However, with coworkers and classmates alike, you are expected to be civil and respectful. And since saying "I'm not your friend" or "I don't like you" often leads to hurt feelings, we should encourage children to avoid saying those things and instead explain why they feel upset ("She took the toy I was playing with" or "He stepped on my foot.") and work on those problem-solving skills.
  5. Don't make a mess. Sometimes I think telling a child not to make a mess is like telling a fish not to swim. They honestly can't help it. They're playing and learning and exploring and don't quite know that pouring water into a full cup will make the water spill all over the place - and how will they find out if they don't try it? Allow times for exploration without worrying about messes and have your child help you clean up when the mess is made. If your child repeats the action over and over just to continue making the mess, then you can put a stop to it and teach your child why it's not ok to keep doing that.

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