“Look at my/his/her eyes.”

This is one of the standard ‘scripts’ that I use with children when we’re working on behavior/rules/procedures.

We do a lot of work with ‘how to have a conversation’ in our room. At mealtimes, I watch children tell a big long story to the wall, or the ceiling, or their plate. I’ve started asking them, “Who are you talking to?” Often they answer, “You.” (The ‘duh’ is just understood.) So I respond, “Oh. I didn’t know because you weren’t looking at me. Look in my eyes when we speak and I’ll know.”

When we learn about saying “Please stop” when someone is bothering you, often the child will say it while looking at me. I say, “I didn’t do it. Look in his eyes and tell him.”

When I’m talking to a child about a discipline issue, I ask them to look at my eyes, because this is an important conversation.

When I’m talking to another child or grown-up and someone interrupts to tell me something, I say, “Wait. Look at my eyes. Did you see I was listening to someone else? Watch my eyes to see when I’m ready to talk to you.” (The of course I try to wrap the first conversation up quicky so they lesson is not lost. “Now I’m ready – see my eyes?”)

Every conversation is important. Teach them how to be good communicators.

“What did I just say?”

This is one of the standard ‘scripts’ that I use with children when we’re working on behavior/rules/procedures.

Use this after you’ve talked to a child about their behavior.  Your job is to keep your message short & simple.  Don’t over-explain to children.  (I learned that the hard way – I talked WAY too much when disciplining, and they would just nod their head at me and wait for me to stop talking so they could go play.)  Short & Sweet!  “Kevin, your hands are grabbing people.  They don’t like that – please stop.  Now, what did I just say?”  “Don’t grab.”  “Why?”  “Because they don’t like it.”  “Yes, thank you.”

“Tell me what I’m going to say.”

This is one of the standard ‘scripts’ that I use with children when we’re working on behavior/rules/procedures. 

This is one that I use after I’ve reminded a child more times than I can count to do/stop/change something.  It is useful because often they know just what I’m going to say. “George, what am I going to say?”  “Ummm…..stop yelling?”  “Yes.  Because…?”  “Um, I’m yelling?”  “Yes.”  It tells me that somewhere inside them, they do know the right thing to do, it’s helping them access that place.

“What will happen if ___________?”

This is one of the standard ‘scripts’ that I use with children when we’re working on behavior/rules/procedures. THis is one that we use well into the year, after the children have learned most procedures.

Example: Eric is being rough with the truck and is about to crash it into somebody’s block building. Me: “Eric, what will happen if you crash that into his building?” This gives him the time to answer me with a good reason – It will fall down/ he’ll be sad/ he might get hurt/ etc. Instead of my telling him what to do, he thinks it through and makes a good choice. This works for caps off markers (‘What will happen if you leave the cap off?’ ‘It will dry out.’), hanging up coats (‘What will happen if you leave it there?’ ‘It’ll get stepped on.’) It’s just a nice way of redirecting that helps them take ownership for their actions. Remember, this is always said calmly & kindly. (Frontal lobe!)

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?)