Teaching explicit mathematical concepts, phonics, and other academic skills makes sense. Literally sitting down with your child, or children in your classroom to go over skills and the “how to” of certain concepts is important. We make time for it. We even break down a math problem into steps and ask children to “show your work”. What about social skills? Instead of explicitly teaching children how to say hello and modeling the proper tone and rhythm of speaking we say, “Be nice, use your words.” Rather than teaching children how to move their feet or what it looks like with your (their) body when you are paying attention we say, “Don’t be disrespectful” or “Be respectful”
Two scenarios for you to ponder
Child begins running down the grocery store aisle ahead of a mom. The mom says, ” Tommy, use your walking feet and come walk near me.” They continue grocery shopping and Tom is now walking beside his mom. Tom starts whining saying, ” Mom, mom, mom” and pulling her shirt ” Mom I really want that cereal with the car on it. . mom mom. ” Whining the entire time!
Mom takes a deep breath and says, ” Tommy please don’t pull on my clothes. If you want my attention you can say ‘Mom, excuse me.’ Tommy, keep your hands to your side when you ask. Try it that way Tom.” So Tom tries this new sentence, “Mom, excuse me.” . .
” Yep his mom continues.” Then you can ask politely, ” ‘Mom can we buy the cereal with the car on it?’ try it now Tom. So the child says: ” Mom, can we buy the cereal with the car on it?” Mom says: ” Tom you asked very politely with a calm voice. ( So that he has some feedback about what he just accomplished.) Then the mom makes the grocery request into an investigation and a hunt for a great cereal. “Let’s look at the cereal ingredients and see what is actually inside the cereal. I know you like the picture of the car but we don’t know if is healthy or not. Let’s find out together. ” . . in the end mom and son decide the cereal has too much sugar and they look to find a cereal together that is healthier but still tasty.
Child begins running down the grocery store aisle ahead of a mom. The mom says, ” Tom, stop running right now.” The child continues to run ( hearing only running right now in his head. . the last part of the sentence.) The mom starts again, ” Tom, if you don’t stop right now you are not going to get to play with your Pokemon cards tonight.” The child stops hearing at the end of his mom’s sentence. . about his pokemon cards so he starts walking slowly waiting for his mom to catch up. “What did I tell you about coming into the store?” The mom is saying in a frustrated tone.
As they go down the cereal isle Tom starts whining saying, ” Mom, mom, mom” and pulling her shirt ” Mom I really want that cereal with the car on it. . mom mom. ” Whining the entire time!
” No, we are not getting that cereal. Now stop whining right now” mom says.
Tom starts crying and whining even more. ” You better stop that whining.” his mom says. As he continues to cry mom finally gives in because people are starting to look at her in the store. She kneels down to him and says in his ear, ” If you stop crying right now, I will get that cereal that you want.”
As you can imagine the situation is likely to be stressful for both parent and child. The child is crying, the mom is angry, and both mom and son are frustrated. The child has learned that by behaving poorly he will get what he wants.
Social skills need to be explicitly taught. We teach children how we want to be treated by what we allow or do not allow. We also teach children how to behave by telling them the reasons why things are the way they are. It’s not just polite to walk in the grocery store but that is the social norm. Where are the places we can run? ( you could ask your child). Make an agreement ahead of time and discuss ahead of time how to ask for things in the grocery store politely and what to do if mom or dad says, ” No”. Or you can do what my mom did and avoid trips to the grocery store with your child. . all together : )
When we give into children because we want to fix them or keep them from crying we are basically missing the opportunity to teach a skill or teach a child directly how to ask for something or say something. Or, we are teaching children that in life if you complain and whine you will get your way. It is in this uncomfortable place of allowing sadness to arise and allowing anger to just be that we as adults must learn to live. We don’t have to fix the emotion or change it. We can teach techniques to calm the mind and body and teach children skills to handle stress or ” not getting what you want.”
Learning to deal with disappointment is a life skill. Teaching your child early on can save a great deal of suffering later on. What do you do when things don’t go your way and how do you let things go or move forward? Pondering this may help you find strategies that your child can also use when they things don’t go their way.
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