Children that do not listen are exhibiting a challenge to authority rather than a listening problem. Get through to your child with the assistance of a licensed psychologist in this free video.
Video created by New Zealand Psychologist Dr Alice Boyes. This video is an experiment in making some basic videos.
A number of students are referred to me exhibiting signs related to behavioural and emotional challenges. More times than not, I will see clients who are moderate to severe in their behaviours. So we’re talking about students who are involved in disruptive behaviours or illicit activities, atypical behaviours, and consistent violators of school policies. To be more specific, these are children who were referred to the multidisciplinary team, for the following issues at school and at home:
- verbally abusive
- fighting with fist and weapons
- uncontrollable sudden outbursts of anger
- constant stealing
- excessive lying
- drugs and alcohol abuse etc.
Generally, I will begin with a Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA) on the student. This will include a number of observations, interviews with teachers, parents and the student, along with checking reports from other stakeholders. The objective is to get as much information as possible.
Over the years I have come to notice that behavioural or emotional challenges do not always exist in isolation (in this case only in one particular setting), but, sometimes their expressions do.
Some years ago, after graduate school, as I was starting off as a psychologist working with children with emotional and behavioural disorders, at the time I did not realise there was so much more I had to learn. I remember taking the approach that clients will be consistent in their behaviours, regardless of the environment they were placed in. But human beings are not like programmed robots. For instance, if we install software on our laptops, then regardless of where we are in the world, it should work the same. So, if I take my laptop to Europe, Africa, United States or the Caribbean, when the icon for Microsoft Office Word is clicked, the program will open. People should be the same, right? No! This approach will be so wrong.
Behaviour is affected biochemically, but environmental factors (or lack of specific ones) around us, also influences our reactions or expressions.
It is therefore very important, that to reduce or to completely eradicate an unwanted behaviour, we look at things which maybe contributing as fuel to the behaviour. When this is identified, we should manipulate it to modify the behaviour.
Now, the understanding that children are affected by their environment has vital importance on the way they learn as well. For this reason, as an educational psychologist working with teachers and students, I encourage teachers to create an environment with things that acts as positive stimuli. These positive stimuli may include:
- a library,
- adequate space for group work and other social interactions,
- proper lighting and temperature,
- and a reasonably outfitted soundproofed room etc.
What are some additional features you believe can be used to act as positive stimuli to our children learning?
1) Love your students (even when they’re not so loveable!)
Enjoying and growing with your students is one of the most important ways to combat burnout. Unfortunately when you’re stressed, it can feel almost impossible to see the kids as the beautiful people that they are. It’s really helped me to build times into our daily schedule which force me to step back and remember what’s important.
For example, in our class meetings, I set a timer for one minute and the entire class greeted one another by name, usually with a handshake of some sort. That’s all the time to takes for every student to smile up at me, shake my hand, and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Watson!” This act alone sets the tone for the day and reminds me that I’m dealing with kids who have feelings, too.
I also had my students give a ‘fist bump or handshake’ when they left the classroom each afternoon. This personal acknowledgement gave me another chance to connect with each child and really calmed me down at the end of the day when I was feeling stressed. Sometimes I also had ‘tickets out the door’—the kids wrote one thing they learned that day and handed me their paper (the ‘ticket’) at dismissal. Having a written record that YES, this day was worth getting out of bed for because I did actually get through to the kids, was enough to help me keep going sometimes when feeling discouraged.
You can have lunch or snack with your kids as a reward every now and then—an unstructured time to just sit and talk about what’s going on in their lives really endears them to you (and vice versa).
Look for little ways like this to accomplish the goal of seeing students as individual people with unique needs, feelings, and experiences. Sometimes the school system trains us to think of kids as machines that can be pushed to the limit every minute of the day and perform at 100% of their ability regardless of outside factors, and we have to intentionally do things to remind ourselves that this is not the case.
When kids feel cared for and respected, they will work harder for you and follow your rules, making the day less stressful and more productive for everyone. It’s worth taking the time and energy to connect with your kids, because the payoffs are ten fold!
2) Focus on your big picture vision
It’s easy to get caught up in the little things that are so frustrating about being a teacher: repeating directions over and over, dealing with the same behavior problem from the same kid every single day, completing meaningless paperwork, grading a million papers…and if you focus on the small things that drive you crazy, you WILL get burned out.
There is a reason you became a teacher—was it to make a difference in a child’s life? To express your creativity? To immerse yourself in a subject you love and inspire students to do the same?
Reconnect with that part of you.
Write out your personal mission statement and post it somewhere in the room where you (and maybe only you) will see it throughout the day.
Create goals that you know you can meet and celebrate your success when you reach them.
Don’t major in the minors or allow yourself to become discouraged by distractions. The extent of your work and your impact goes far beyond what you see from day to day. Seeds are being planted, and lives are being changed, whether you see the results immediately or not.
3) Create a strong support system
I am blessed to have had at least one person in each school I’ve worked in that I considered a true friend—not just a colleague or associate, but a person that I could call at 2 a.m. with a flat tire and know that she would pick me up. When I was single, I hung out with someone from my job almost every single day, whether it was for something fun like shopping at the mall or hanging out on the beach, or something practical, like running errands together or keeping an eye on her kids while she cooked dinner for us (a good trade, I might add.) Knowing that I had someone I can go to with any problem, personal or professional, was the main thing that got me through the day sometimes—that thought of, whew, in an hour I can go next door and just vent!
If you wish you had friends like that in your school, give it time. Because teachers spend so much time isolated in their own classrooms, there aren’t many opportunities to get to know one another, and it can take awhile to get close to your colleagues. Be open to opportunities, and don’t write anyone off–I’ve often bonded with people that I would have never imagined myself growing close to! Even finding just one wise person you trust and can share ideas with might be all you need.
When time goes by and you feel like you still aren’t making connections with anyone in your current teaching position, you could also consider moving to another grade level or even school where there are teachers that have similar personalities (and ideally, life situations) as you. Having a strong support system is just that critical, and it’s sometimes worth the move!
When a student needs a break and you have a trusted colleague, you can send the child to him or her to work for awhile, no questions asked. When you miss a meeting, you have someone to take notes for you. When you’re rearranging your classroom or revamping your behavior plan, you have someone to bounce ideas off. If you have even a single co-worker that you can count on for that, it’s going to make a big difference in your energy level and enthusiasm at work.
Even if you don’t have true friends at work—or if you prefer to keep your personal and professional lives separate—it is important to have people you trust and can go to when you’re stressed at school. Your spouse, friends, and family do NOT understand what it is like to be a teacher unless they have been educators themselves—what we go through on a daily basis in completely beyond the realm of imagination for the general public. You need to talk to another teacher who understands the pressure you’re under, so seek people out in teacher Facebook groups, message board forums, Twitter chats, and so on. Join one of my book clubs or The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. There are fantastic teachers out there who want to offer support and friendship!
4) Focus on flexibility and express your creativity
For me, one of the best aspects of being a teacher is the ability to be creative and let my classroom and daily routines reflect my personality and interests. Before you complain that YOU don’t have that kind of flexibility, let me assure you, I taught in Florida where third graders were automatically retained if they didn’t pass the state standardized test, so I was under a tremendous amount of pressure. We had to have our schedules posted and were supposed to adhere to them at all times. Our lesson plans had to be planned as a grade level team and followed precisely.
And even with these types of restraints, I still maintained a sense of freedom in my classroom. Sure, I needed to teach a specific standard on this day between 11:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., but I could teach it any way I wanted—with apps, individual dry erase boards, games, manipulatives, group activities, music, and so on.
I’d start the lesson I had planned, gauge the kids’ interest, and then adjust accordingly. I don’t know of any teachers, other than those who have scripted lessons, who are not allowed that sort of freedom, in reality if not on paper. Don’t lose sight of how awesome it is to choose many of the activities you do each day!
You probably have more control over your classroom than you realize. If your head hurts, you can have the kids can do more independent work; if you’re feeling energetic, you can teach using a game; if you want to sit down for awhile, you can call the kids to the carpet and teach while relaxing in a rocking chair. We have a tremendous amount of flexibility that we CANNOT overlook.
Think about how many people sit behind a desk nine hours a day, every day, doing the work other people assign to them. Hardly anyone gets to change tasks to suit their moods and still be productive—we do, because teaching is as much an art as it is a science, and there are a limitless number of ways to teach effectively.
Yes, there are many limits and restraints on teachers that threaten to suck all the joy out of our profession. But when you focus on what you DO have control over and all the ways that you CAN be flexible and express your creativity, you return to that original passion you had for teaching.
You took this job because you wanted to do awesome things with kids every day. So do that! Stay focused on your vision rather than the restraints that create burnout.
Go into your classroom and focus on what’s meaningful. Use the flexibility and opportunities to be creative that you’re given. Surround yourself with awesome teachers and a strong support network so you don’t feel isolated. Return to your big picture vision as a teacher, and enjoy your students. You can do this, and remember–it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it! Next Sunday, I’ll share four more keys to avoiding burnout right here in this post.
Children that do not listen are exhibiting a challenge to authority rather than a listening problem. Get through to your child with the assistance of a licensed psychologist in this free video.
After jumping down from a tree at the park my son stood up, did a little victory dance and then ran off to play on an obstacle course. It’s a pretty tricky course that requires balance, agility and coordination. It looked like it would take him a while to have it mastered.
Sure enough my son struggled for a while. I saw him fall and get stuck many times but eventually he completed the course.Then he came running to tell me about his adventures. He was excited, recalling many details, like a rope that caught his shoe and a scary moment when he struggled to clip the safety. But one thing he said stood out to me the most.
“I almost fell down like a hundred times mom, and then I finally figured out the whole thing. It was kind of tough. But it was awesome!”
“I saw you!” I told him smiling. It was nice to see this budding confidence coming through, especially because in the toddler years, he was often very frustrated when things didn’t really go his way.
Self-Esteem: It’s Important For Healthy Development
Children with positive self-esteem tend to recognize their abilities and feel proud about what they are able to. When a child’s self-esteem is positive and well balanced, they aren’t afraid of making mistakes because they recognize within themselves the ability to try again (or to quit because it feels right to do so). Most of all, they are able to manage worries, frustrations and the learning process pretty well. Especially when parents are able to encourage and support them along the way.
The way we parent and communicate with our children can certainly have an impact on their self-esteem. There are parenting practices we can strive towards that can help our children maintain (and boost) a positive sense of self.
Here are Ten parenting practices that promote healthy self-esteem:
1. Use Encouraging words: It’s tempting to shout out “You are amazing! You are so smart!” When you notice your child doing something well. But this puts all the focus on outcomes. Self-esteem is actually reinforced when children feel confident in their abilities, even when things are tough. Encouraging words help children stay the course. It might sound like:
- “You fell but you kept going.”
- “You weren’t sure and then I saw you figure it out.”
- “Not yet, it’s true, you haven’t been able to finish yet.”
2. Welcome boredom into your home: It’s really OK for kids to feel like they have nothing to do, and to feel like they are bored. When boredom shows up, children start to get creative. They tap into their inner resources, discover their interests and learn to rely on their own abilities. Allow for plenty of (screen free) unstructured time for your child every day. Even better if you can get them outdoors!
3. Validate feelings without eliminating every obstacle: Every child will face struggles and challenges as they grow. It’s tempting to brush these off or to rescue our children to lessen their burden but this isn’t helpful at all. In fact not letting children face obstacles is worse.
Jane Nelsen D.Ed. and Author of the Positive Discipline Series reminds us of how important it is not to rescue our children from their struggles with this anecdote:
A little boy was watching a butterfly try to break out of the chrysalis. As he watched the butterfly struggle, he felt sorry for it. So he decided to help. He broke open the chrysalis and was so delighted to see the butterfly soar into the sky. But then he watched in horror as it fell to the ground, because the butterfly had not developed it’s muscles.
So, when your child is struggling, try to validate and listen. Have faith that your child will be able to feel a full range of emotions and get through their feelings. You can give them space or stay close and listen. If they are open to it, help problem solve. Just avoid rescuing or shutting down feelings.
4. Teach Self-Care skills: Children are very capable, especially when we allow them to develop skills gradually. Without expectations that are set too high. Show your child how to care for their body, belongings and home. Allow your child to participate in tidying up the house, cleaning their rooms and helping with other life skills such as cooking, writing a shopping list and so on. Self-esteem really starts with knowing you are able to care for yourself, so allow your child to be an activate participant in their care from the very start.
5. Listen: Children need someone to listen to them so they know their voice matters. Strive to make time to be together each day so you can listen to your child talk about accomplishments, fears, worries, ideas and more. A fun way to do this is to end each day with a game of Highs / Lows where you invite your child to tell you some of her favorite and least favorite moments of the day. You can take it a step forward and ask your child how they might change those least favorite moments if they had a do-over.
6. Acknowledge Worries: It’s pretty normal for children to have worries and anxieties. When a child feels like her worries are being understood she is better able to deal with them and move forward. So, try not to dismiss worries and instead acknowledge them. It might sound like “You aren’ t sure if you can do it? Did I understand you?” Or “This is really worrying you. Want to tell me more?” Talking about worries and feeling acknowledged is an opportunity for a child to find and use her inner resources as well.
7. Have Courage & Be Kind: Our children really are watching us and reflecting on the choices that we make. So face your own obstacles, fears and worries with courage. Be kind to yourself, don’t speak badly about your failures or general abilities. Highlight the good and how you worked things out. Of course it’s ok to be authentic and admit defeat, but strive to do so with general compassion and kindness towards yourself. I would encourage you to remember that what you are modeling makes a big impact on your child. You might think you are not good enough, but your child really does look up to you.
8.Welcome mistakes and imperfections: Sometimes we have to try, and try again. Chances are you and your child will both make many mistakes along the way. See these as opportunities to learn, to persevere or to know when to quit and move on. Each mistake can be a chance to learn something new, or at the very least to model what it takes to problem solve.
9. Spend time together: Play, fun and laughter are incredibly powerful ways to connect to your child’s heart and mind. Seize the opportunities that you have to enjoy each other. Children that feel connected to their parents feel good about themselves. (I know parenting is not all sunshine and rainbows – there are many challenging moments but I cannot stress enough how important it is to make time for play and laughter. This practice has tremendous potential to reduce stress, misbehavior and increase your child’s well-being.
10. Use connected, positive discipline: When your child is having a hard time listening, following rules and not cooperating, skip blame and punishments. Focus on working together, on understanding the root of the problem, setting limits well and being present. A respectful, kind and clear approach to discipline helps your child feel secure, loved and understood. A great mix for growing up with a healthy and with balanced self-esteem.