The magic words – Thank you.

Say “Thank you” often.

When children do something you’ve asked them, thank them.  When children apologize to a friend, thank them.  When you see them doing something right, thank them.  Thank them often, and be sincere.

I’m not fond of the idea of giving children a treat for doing the right thing.  In our classroom, everyone helps pick up because that’s how we take care of our room.  We apologize to friends because that’s how we treat our friends.  We do nice things for others because it makes them, and us, feel good.  Thanks, guys.

The magic of choices

Our job is to let the children make their own choices from the environment we have created for them.  There are boundaries set, and they are free to choose – within those boundaries.

Example:  Tony has his hat on, and your policy is that hats are worn outside.  You know that if you ask him to hang up his hat, he’s going to balk and say, “No, I want to wear it.”  There’s an arguement you don’t need.  So set it up so he gets to choose – “Tony, hats are for outside, remember?  Would you like to put it on your hook or in your cubby?”  Your boundaries, his choice.  (Remember, this isn’t really magic. He may balk anyway.  My response would be, “Please choose now, or I’ll choose.”  Still balking?  Count down from 5.  Remember: calm, positive, frontal lobe.)

Choices are something to use all day!  Children love to be in charge, and they should be – within your limits.  “Would you like to paint that picture or color it with markers?”  “Would you like me to help you with your shoes or would you like to do it yourself?”  “Would you like me to read with you or do you want to read with Ann?”   Choices are great!  (Don’t credit card commercials always say that?)

Do they feel welcome?

When children and families arrive – welcome them!  Smile, greet them by name, have a little chat with the parents if time allows.  Don’t be busy doing paperwork – be aware of when they enter the room.  Greet the children with enthusiasm – let them know you’re SO glad they came to school today!  (The mental image I use is from the old sitcom Cheers.  Whenever Norm would come in, the whole bar would yell, “Norm!”)  I want the children know that I’m excited they joined us for our day!

Our staff went to a parenting workshop once where the presenter was asking the parents, “Does your child feel like your eyes light up when you see him/her?”  That was a powerful statement.  Every child is important.  Every parent is important.  We are all children of God, and this is how we treat our family.

Everyone deserves to feel like they belong.

Frontal Lobe!

Our staff has been to many in-services and conferences that deal with how the brain works.  One that was so interesting was that when people are dealing with heavy emotions – anger, fear, frustration – the part of the brain that responds is the brain stem – the ‘animal’ part of the brain.  (‘Fight or Flight Response’)  The frontal lobe is where more mature, rational responses are formed. 

Interacting with young children can be very, very stressful at time, and one of the hardest things to master is to be the adult.  When children are throwing a tantrum, stay out of your brain stem!  Reach your frontal lobe!  Take a deep breath, mentally take a step back, and be rational.  This will take years to master, but it’s worth it.  (It’s not that you don’t get angry or upset – I am angry and upset daily – it just means that the way you respond to the child is in a calm, respectful, authoritive manner that isn’t flying off the handle, mean, or belittling.)

Stating the Problem

I have been finding myself stating the problem at hand in a very matter-of-fact (yet positive tone!) way with the children.  For instance, if two boys are crashing cars in blocks, I say, “Gentleman, you’re crashing the blocks.”  Usually they answer with, “Sorry”. and it stops.

When children yell at me (which is often, because they are so excited!), I say, “Wow, you’re yelling at me.”  They turn their voices down.

Say it clearly, say it calmly.  “Fontal lobe!”