Labels can be dangerous. Once a child has a label placed upon them, they often live up, or down, to, that expectation. As such, they play a role that can limit their growth and development.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to free children from playing roles. Here are a few tips from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish from their excellent book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.
To Free Children from Playing Roles
- Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of himself. – “You’ve had that toy since you were three and it almost looks brand new.”
- Put children in situations where they can see themselves differently. – “Sara, would you take the screwdriver and tighten the pulls on these drawers.”
- Let children overhear you say something positive about them. – “He held his arm steady even though the shot hurt.”
- Model the behavior you’d like to see. – “It’s hard to lose, but I’ll try to be a sport about it, Congratulations.”
- Be a storehouse for your child’s special moments. – ” I remember the time you . . .”
- When the child acts according to the old label, state your feelings and/or your expectations. – “I don’t like that, Despite your strong feelings, I expect sportsmanship from you.”
They even have advice for classroom teachers. Below is a comment from a teacher that used the methods from this book in her classroom.
Shift Your Mindset of Making Children Behave
“The most helpful shift in my thinking came from no longer asking myself how to ‘make’ the kids learn or behave. Now I ask myself how I can motivate my students to take ownership of the problem.”
The authors are “convinced that when our classrooms really work, they work because relationships are working. And relationships work when communication is humane and caring.”
Stop Saying, But . . . Say, The Problem is
Sometimes we praise and take it away immediately with one simple word, but.
“But” feels like a door slammed in your face. “The problem is” opens the door and invites you to consider a possible solution.
Our Words Matter
Our words hold a lot of power. We need to make sure we are using them in ways that can affect positive change in our classrooms and homeschool learning environments. The authors followed this book up with a few others. There is one directed at education and helping children learn. It’s on my “to read” pile. I hope to get to it soon.