There are 7 skills that are applied with this method:
5. Positive Intent
1) Composure – No one can make you angry without your permission.
The purpose is to remain calm enough to teach children how to behave by example. The brain functions optimally in safe environments. The way we choose to perceive a situation dictates our level of upset or composure. Composure is a choice that we make and can be signified by S.T.A.R. icon.
Smile. Take a deep breath. And. Relax.
Teachers who have mastered self-control and model the Skill Composure do the following:
A. Focus on what they want the child to accomplish.
B. Celebrate the child’s successes & choices.
C. See situations from the child’s perspective as well as their own.
D. Creatively teach the child how to communicate their wishes and frustrations with words, & in an acceptable manner.
E. Hold the child accountable to those teachings.
2) Encouragement – Power of unity; we’re all in this together.
Contributing to the welfare of others builds self-worth. How you “see” others defines who you are. Effective praise relies on describing not judging. Children need encouragement, especially when they have made “poor” choices. Problem children are typically removed from so as not to disturb the others; Out of sight out of mind. However, if you want others to change you must change first. You must be the person you want others to become. Possibilities, potential, and principles are all we have to guide our thinking. Room management must shift drastically; cooperation not competition is the key to any type of evolution. We need to embrace community not as a strategy but as an ideology that reflects the heart of humanity. Focus on others giving rather than getting. Encouragement affords a deeps sense of belonging. The following tips will help with success:
A. Notice tendency to judge instead make a comment that shows you have noticed a child.
B. Consciously notice and encourage; describe what you see, “Look at you”, “You did it”, “I noticed”
C. After a command, praise the child if they choose to listen. Even if it takes numerous times of telling a command to a child before they complied they still followed your command. Cooperation no matter how long it takes deserves a celebration.
Notice the following types of behaviors and encourage them:
3) Assertiveness – What you focus on you get more of.
Set limits and expectations in a respectful manner. Healthy boundaries are essential to healthy relationships. When you are upset you are always focused on what you don’t want. Children must learn that they teach others how to treat them. As teachers we must clearly define for ourselves what we want to happen. Focusing on what you want the outcome to be creates the opportunity for change to occur. Children like adults will always respond better to enthusiasm. To be assertive you must express your feelings thoughts and wishes without diminishing those of other people. You must value yourself. Shift your focus from what you assume others are thinking & feeling to being conscious of your mind’s content. To learn you must do the following:
A. Achieve self-awareness
B. Monitor your own thought patterns
4) Choices – Building self-esteem & will power
The only person you can make change is yourself. Choices can empower children while setting limits. With choices you can change the brain chemistry so that learning is optimized. Making choices builds willpower and self-esteem. When you reclaim your choices you are reclaiming your power. If you are in a power struggle with a child you have put the child in charge. You can reclaim your power by acknowledging you are free to choose how you respond to situations and free to choose how you initiate interactions with others.
“If you choose to throw uni-fix cubes, I will have to take them away. You can build with them if you’d like but it’s your choice.”
Power comes from choice not force. Offer children two acceptable choices. The following steps will help you deliver two positive choices:
· Breathe deeply. Think about what you want the child to do. Make a conscious decision.
· Tell the child “You have a choice” in an upbeat tone. Your positive attitude lightens the situation, especially if the child seems resistant.
· State the two choices you created to achieve your goal.
· Complete process by asking the child for a commitment. You might say “what is your choice”. Repeat options if the child hesitates.
· Notice the choice the child makes. Verbalize their choice in an encouraging voice. Be sure to make this final comment. Children who are aware of their choices will not only feel less controlled but will also have greater self-control.
Note that there will be times that children do not want to make a choice. If that is the case it may be because the child is afraid of disappointing you or they may have a fear of being wrong. Model acceptance of mistakes. Show them/tell them that everyone slips up.
5) Positive Intent – To see the best in others
Create those teachable moments especially with oppositional or aggressive children. With positive intent it can improve your self-image and builds trust. What you are offering to others you are strengthening in yourself. With these teachable moments you are transferring resistance into cooperation. Children cannot behave differently until they are seen differently. Children who make poor choices often feel poorly about themselves. If you see the best in them you are changing aggressive behavior into cooperative members at the center. Being determined to find fault in others simply means that we are unwilling to change ourselves. Negative intent assumes the child’s behavior is about you, while positive intent lets the child’s behavior be about the child.
Children are just mean
They are just trying to get my attention
They sure know how to push my buttons
He’s just hurtful for no reason
He keeps others from learning
She is disrupting the class
She is just lazy
Children need social skills
This child needs help in learning to focus
I must learn to stay calm
He needs help managing his frustration
He needs work he can be successful at
She is having trouble with this work
She must feel hopelessly unsuccessful
Even if you refrain from a direct attack your implication and tone can hurt deeply. Be aware of how you sound to others. Your intentions are more powerful than the words spoken sometimes.
6) Empathy – The power of acceptance.
Helping children accept and process their feelings to see the world from others’ perspectives. Empathy wires the brain for self-control, allowing children access to higher cognitive processes. Empathy is the heart of emotional intelligence; understanding and joining with others without taking on the pain of others as your own. Until you feel your feelings you will not allow children to feel theirs. Children have a right to all of their feelings. Feelings serve as our core system for discerning right from wrong. They are our moral navigators. We must teach our children how to handle disappointment and frustration appropriately. However, before you can empathize you must stop equating disobedience with disrespect. When you empathize with children they realize you care about their ideas and feelings. True empathy demands that you listen to their thoughts and feelings without needing to change them. This teaches them the following:
· Recognition and acceptance of emotions
· Knowledge that emotions can be expressed to others
· The ability to label feelings with appropriate words
· The understanding that feelings influence behavior
· The realization that relationships are based on mutual esteem and communication
School aged children experience what the method calls Reciprocal empathy because of your child’s growing cognitive maturity. A child will be able not only to be empathetic, but also to discern if the form of empathy offered is helpful to the recipient. They can fully appreciate situations from another’s perspective. They can now have the capacity to understand that no one persons’ perspective is right.
7) Consequences – Helping children learn from their mistakes.
Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Help children reflect on their choices and motivate them to make changes in their behavior. Teach them the value of responsibility. Your brain thrives on feedback for growth, learning, intelligence and survival. We are teaching children that consequences have a cause and effect on relationships. The principles of consequences are as follows:
· Mistakes are opportunities to learn responsibility
· Punishment and rewards rely on judgement. Consequences rely on reflection.
· Your intentions in administering consequences will determine their effectiveness.
· Consequences delivered with empathy allow children the opportunity to learn how to be responsible for their choices.
It is not in our human nature to feel bad about mistakes and good about accomplishments. We learn this mind set. When children see the connection between their behavior and the result of that behavior learning has occurred. At any given moment, you are either being responsible, or offering blame. The choice is ours. Being conscious of your intent when delivering consequences is the key to their effectiveness. With phrases like” You should have known better”, or “When are going to start thinking” the punitive position clearly states that the child should feel bad. It teaches the child to focus their attention on you, rather than to think about the consequences of their behavior. Rescuing children from their feelings created by their choices is another means of control. Parents run to school with forgotten lunches, permission slips, and homework. By doing this your actions are saying the feeling of disappointment is bad, and that they will overwhelm you. It sends a message that the adult knows best how to run the child’s life. Children learn to focus their intelligence and energy into manipulating adults to rescue and protect them from consequences of their behavior.
To help children learn responsibility we can use three types of consequences: natural, imposed, & problem solving.
1) Natural Consequences – nothing is prearranged. The consequences a child experiences are directly related to the child’s choice or behavior. If a child doesn’t tie their shoes they could trip. These consequences are possible and sometimes probable results of personal choices. However, adults tend to overdo the prediction of harm. These dire warnings send two messages:
· Adults are all knowing
· Children have no control over the events of their life. Children who internalize these beliefs grow into adults who give their power away to others and end up feeling victimized by life.
The following 5 steps will help you teach children to learn from the natural consequences of their choices by using the acronym G.A.M.E.S.
G – give Guidance and possible outcomes
A – Allow consequences
M – Model self-control
E – offer Empathy
S – new Strategies
2) Imposed Consequences – prearranged. The adult creates a set of behavioral expectations for the child. If the child doesn’t hand in their homework on time the consequences are prearranged by the teacher or class. Consequences do not teach children how to behave. They motivate children to use skills they already have or, motivate them to learn new strategies. These consequences can be developed at the spur of the moment.
Use the acronym C.I.R.C.L.E.
C – Choice of skills (old and new)
I – Imposed consequences for using old skill
R – Related to safety or logic
C – Child states back what was heard
L – Listen and clarify if needed
E – Empathy with consequences
3) Problem Solving – The logical consequence of creating a problem is solving a problem. The logical consequence of fighting with other children is to learn to solve problems without fighting. Unfortunately, often this is not thought of as a consequence. We want to help children reflect on their actions, to change and then make choices that bring successful outcomes. If the imposed consequence isn’t obvious, problem solving is the technique to use. When children are actively engaged in solving their own problems outcomes are peaceful.
Use the acronym P.E.A.C.E.
P – discern who owns the Problem.
E – offer Empathy to the child who made the “poor” choice.
A – Ask the child to think, “What do you think you are going to do”.
C – offer Choices and suggestions
E – Encourage the child to come up with their own solution.
It’s important to note that chronic problems will not be solved with imposed consequences. They require problem solving.
Jaime Gonce has been working at Walnut Acres Children's Center for over 10 years and is now Director of the center. She has a masters in Child Counseling and attended San Diego State and California State University, East Bay.