My husband and I stared at each other across the kitchen counter. Two of our children played in the background as I shared what the teacher had told me at school about our oldest. “What in the world are we going to do about this?” he asked. “Don’t worry, I said, “I have a plan.”
Earlier that morning I walked my son through his school for his weekly parent drop off, he was his normal self and seemed happy to be starting his day at school. Usually, dropoff involves saying “hi” to a few other parents and going on our way. But as I dropped my son off I just had a feeling I should ask his teacher how he was doing. Turns out that there was a note from his teacher that never made it home the day before (Surprise, surprise). He had been involved in an altercation at recess and had told 2 girls at his table to “shut up.”
My first gut instinct was to panic. I was already struggling with my son at home most days, but he had never had any issues at school and I felt like I was running out of options. I took a deep breath, thanked the teacher and said I would address it at home.
I bought “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” because I have seen it recommended time and again and I really felt like I needed more parenting tools in my parenting toolbox. Each chapter addresses a different idea or technique to help you help your child become more emotionally intelligent, self-reliant, and responsible. Numerous examples from different age groups really help cement each concept and at the end of each chapter are a few cartoons to give you a quick reminder or review of each concept. (I have been known to flip through the book and reread the cartoons to remind myself of concepts). The chapters include: helping children deal with their emotions, engaging cooperation, alternatives to punishment, encouraging autonomy, praise, and freeing children from playing roles.
One concept that was applied was problem-solving with your child and I was going to get an opportunity to apply it! That afternoon after school, I sat down with my son and told him he wasn’t in trouble and I wasn’t going to punish him, but I needed him to talk to me about what happened at school the day before. He got to share his frustrations and I told him I totally understand why he felt the way he did. But I did say that we needed to come up with a plan to act differently when he was in those situations. We had a notepad and wrote down ideas of how to handle the situations he was in. He actually had some great ideas! Then we crafted a letter to his teacher using the ideas we wrote down. In the letter, we wrote down the action plan that my son would follow when facing those situations in the future. Both of us signed the letter and sent it to his teacher the next school day.
I was so glad I took the time to listen to my son’s story. He should not have handled himself the way he did, but instead of just telling him, “Don’t do that!” or “Be different!” we got to use it as a learning experience. (He’s in 1st grade, life should be a learning experience) and come up better ways for him to act. I worry that simply punishing bad behavior is that simple punishment can encourage passivity in many children. I know it did for me, if you don’t do anything, you don’t ever get in trouble. But simply punishing behaviors (especially the first time it occurs) doesn’t help a child learn how to handle the situation instead.But simply punishing behaviors (especially the first time it occurs) doesn't help a child learn how to handle the situation instead.Click To Tweet
I am pleased to say that we have received several positive notes and emails from his teacher since we wrote our letter. My son isn’t perfect and we still have our struggles, but I felt so empowered as a parent when I was able to have a plan of action that addressed my son’s behaviors, involved him in the solution, and was a positive learning experience.