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Behaviour Management

Why Michael Jordan Can Teach Us About Behaviour

Michael Jordan won six NBA championship rings as part of the Chicago Bulls team. As good as he was, he couldn’t have achieved such a feat without the likes of Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, John Paxson and all the other quality players that played alongside him. There was another key that gets a little shine in The Last Dance documentary: The system.

The Triangle Offense

The Chicago Bulls used a system for playing the game called the Triangle Offense. Without boring you on the ins and outs of this intricate system, it involved the players working in groups of three to form a triangle and required constant movement, crisp passing and numerous options. What happened on the court through the system was a result of the player’s decisions as opposed to other teams who had pre-determined set plays and strategies. The system – although rigorous – moulds to the strengths of the players and the system works best with players who had a high game IQ. The players follow the framework of the system and fundamental principles, however, there is an infinite number of potential actions that can emerge as a result of what is happening at the moment and what the strengths of the situation are.

Michael won six rings playing this system and Phil Jackson – the coach – won even more using it. The system works. How can we use this system in schools?

Tie It Back To Behaviour Please

I’m not suggesting for a second that we start lining up children in triangles to start promoting positive behaviour. There are definite learnings, however, to take from this hugely successful system at guiding a group successfully to the desired goal.

If the system they had used was too rigid and inflexible, players would not have been able to abide by for all 82 NBA regular-season games. It just can’t be done. People have personalities and they need to shine through. They need to be allowed to express themselves from time to time.

If the Chicago Bulls system was set on pre-determined strategies, there would have been some success but this is always limited. Eventually, opposing teams start to work out your strategies and counteract them successfully. Alternatively, the strategies don’t suit the strengths of your players so never can be executed with precision.

The Classroom

Think of the classroom as your very own Chicago Bulls team. Think of the characters in the room that need to express themselves. I believe that if I use the predetermined teaching styles and behaviour strategies that I use every year, I will have the same level of success as a predetermined basketball system if I am not considering the class I have in front of: limited.

I wrote previously about the possibility of labelling our children with ADHD, ODD and ADD being counter-productive. Part of the reason is this kind of labelling leans teachers towards using predetermined strategies guided by a diagnosis as opposed to the child’s strengths and personality. If they are successful, great. If they are not, however, the teacher is left scratching their head or the child is being labelled as extremely difficult.

Now think of a classroom that utilises a triangle-offence style system. There is a clear framework for how the class functions. There are a minimal set of rules aimed at health and safety and basic respect. The children are clear on these rules but understand there is room for expression within them. They can shout out if they are super passionate about something. They can leave their seat without permission if they need to. They have a level of choice as to how they express themselves through their work. They can disagree with the teacher if they have a reason for doing so. Will there be children in some classes who still have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties? Absolutely. In these situations, they would need to be further supported with a more individual framework that has a process, yet is flexible.

A framework like this could be completed in eight steps:

  1. Define the problem behaviour clearly.
  2. Look at what solutions have been attempted.
  3. Look at the exceptional time when they don’t behave this way.
  4. Discuss how you would make the problem worse.
  5. Discuss how the child would be treated if the problem didn’t exist.
  6. Set a single SMART objective.
  7. Create an Action Plan.
  8. Review its success.

A model, such as this one from Winning without Fighting, offers that rigorous framework similar to the triangle offence of the Chicago Bulls. It has clear guidelines, clear rules and an infinite number of potential outcomes. Flexibility, adaptability and using what you see in the moment and the strengths of the individuals you are teaching are huge factors in successful behaviour management.

Don’t agree with me? Just look at how Phil Jackson managed Denis Rodman successfully!

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Behaviour Management Special Education

What Toltec Wisdom Can Teach Us About Behaviour

Building relationships is a complex business. When we talk about teaching, behaviour and students, we are talking about a relationship. There are theoretical perspectives and strategies recommended to maximise the productivity of this relationship. Teachers may decide to take a behaviourist approach and incorporate rewards systems or may decide to take a more humanistic route and develop self-esteem. These approaches work for the majority of students when implemented effectively and the relationship between the two thrives.

When a relationship is unproductive, however, things get even more complex. Negative cycles of behaviour can emerge and patterns can stagnate. A repetitive format of the teacher intervening ineffectively and the student behaving undesirably appears fixed. Neither will change but only one party is being cited as difficult.

If a surgeon came out of a theatre and informed us that the operation was a success but the patient died, we might have a query about their rationale. Similarly, teachers (including myself) can get stuck in a rut of claiming their strategies and interventions are the “right” ones even though they are blatantly ineffective.

An effective behavioural strategy is one which causes the behavioural change it is seeking to achieve. Do I have to include that it also needs to be within obvious ethical parameters? Probably, as this is the internet.

There is a need to have a diverse range of strategies and theories to draw from when seeking to change a dysfunctional relationship into a functional one. Marrying yourself to one theory is comparable to only having a hammer in your toolbox. When all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail. You can descend into trying to fit the child into the strategy as opposed to fitting the strategy to the child. To demonstrate this point, we can take heed of the Toltecs.

The Six Images of A Relationship

According to Toltec wisdom, everyone has an outer image. This is the image we try to project to the world. We also have an inner image that we have of ourselves. Teachers have this outer and inner image. A student similarly has an outer image they try to project and an inner image that teachers and others cannot see. We then have to introduce the image that the teacher has of the student from their point of view and the student’s image of the teacher from their perspective. If you have managed to keep count, that is six different images involved in the relationship between teacher and student. Let’s not even start considering the rest of the class.

The first thing I love about this analogy is I find it relatable. I certainly have an image I try to project as a teacher. I try to project a level of confidence and certainty in my actions. I also have an inner image that differs greatly. My inner image has far more doubts than my outer image ever displays.

The second thing I love is the simplistic way that it conveys the complexity of a relationship. There are so many factors that remain unseen in a relationship between two people. How can we ever say with absolute certainty that we “know” a student and it’s not the intervention being used that is the issue, but the child? How can your favourite three strategies for supporting a child with complex social, emotional or behavioural needs ever be considered sufficient?

This interpretation of a relationship would jar with a fixed mindset that there is one or two theories or strategies for success. I’m sure if the Toltecs were in charge of behaviour policies in schools, they would recommend that schools and teachers strive to build their knowledge base with a diverse range of theories and strategies so when they meet a child that needs the support, there will be a deep well to draw from. A strategy’s use is defined by the behavioural change it causes. The more strategies we have, the greater the chance of success.

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anxiety Behaviour Management Homeschool parenting

Homeschool and the 80/20 Rule

Teachers, parents and children have been thrust into remote teaching, homeschooling and remote learning in most countries around the world right now and we rush to make sense of it all. How can we teach, facilitate learning and learn in our roles while also navigating the unavoidable stress of a global pandemic?

The first thing all three groups have to do is ensure that the keystones of self-care are in place. This can be done by making self-care a priority. Nothing will be achieved if you burn yourself out with anxiety and stress and I suggest six ways to do this here. Journalling is a personal favourite. Exercise is also paramount for me. I like one strategy for the mind and one for the body to keep a balance.

Once self-care is being looked after, we have to look at educating and being educated. Thankfully, lots of teacher, parents and students are full of enthusiasm, creativity and drive to make sure that we make the most of what we can with the internet providing a wealth of support and advice.

Filter it.

Being wary of taking on too much whether, in the role of teaching, parenting or learning is something that needs to be considered. All the best practice being championed online is fantastic: as long as we don’t try to do it all. As Greg McKeown wrote in Essentialism, “you can do anything but not everything”. We must have a filter where we can adopt the most effective ideas and draw a line where we are satisfied that what we are doing is efficient and sustainable.

Pareto’s Principle.

This is where Pareto’s Principle can come into play. Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was a distinguished philosopher and economist who can help us ensure that we are prepared for a marathon and not a sprint.

Pareto’s principle is that 80% of results will come from 20% of actions.

This is relevant to teachers, parents and students therefore as the opposite of this statistic could be true. 80% of actions are only getting 20% of our results. So as we try to juggle managing our self-care, home life, professional life, relationships and children, we should question every initiative we are using or considering and pose the question:

“Is this a lot more work for very little benefit?”

It is easy to fall into the trap of being busy but not productive and Pareto’s principle and the question it poses to every action we take right now can help us maintain our equilibrium and the equilibrium of our loved ones over the long-term. Absorb what is necessary and discard what is not.

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Behaviour Management Homeschool parenting

Motivate Homeschool Children Without Rewards

In a previous article, I described how a parent might go about setting up a reward system at home. The parents might decide to reward their child for behaving a certain way with something external like sweets, additional screen time, preferred activity or anything that would motivate them to cooperate. This is an effective way to increase desired behaviour but there are people out there that don’t enjoy the transactional concept of a reward system. They don’t like the mentality that their child will only learn if they get something they like in return. They want their child to want to learn. Well, if its ideas for this you are looking for, let me introduce you to a different kind of motivator.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation can be explained as an inner motivation which is driven by the reward or enjoyment they get from doing the activity itself. Think about the child who practices a sport for hours or practices a musical instrument incessantly without any pressure from parents. This child is intrinsically motivated to engage with the activity. They do it because they enjoy doing it, the sense of achievement from doing it well and the feeling that they are improving at it.

As children pass through the school system, the dream can be that they make the shift from external motivators like praise, jellies and extra play time to this intrinsic motivation where they engage in learning because they love it.

How Can Parents Intrinsically Motivate Their Children?

Parents who don’t want to offer external rewards to their children to behave and learn, thankfully, have numerous options to help develop this self-motivation in their children. There is no magic formula but there are plenty of options:

Choice

As your child is being homeschooled, there is more opportunity to allow them to direct their learning. Allowing them to have partial (or total) say in how they learn over the next few weeks could provide that inner motivation they need to truly engage with tasks. Let them choose the books they read, let them choose the songs they learn, let them choose what countries they want to research. You can even let them choose when they want to learn completely. Giving the child ownership over their learning can be empowering and you may be surprised at how immersed in topics and activities they become.

Variety

If your child is not ready to choose their topics and schedule, variety is said to be the spice of life! Your child may be bored by the repetitive nature of the daily compulsory task which is dropping their motivation through the floor. Creativity is all that is needed to introduce variety. Instead of just demanding they read a book to you daily which results in a row, why don’t you record them reading and pretend your making a youtube video for other children? As opposed to learning about a country from a book, why don’t you encourage them to create a project or design a quiz about the country to give an adult later on? Your imagination is the limit on this one and, graciously, we also have the internet for a wealth of ideas.

Resources

Some children can loathe the idea of writing sentences in a copy, but when you give them a whiteboard and a marker, it can seem like Christmas. Providing attractive resources to engage in a task can bring a wonderful sense of joy to an activity. Children, suddenly, can take enormous pride in presenting their work when using different ranges of pencils, markers, chalks, pens, crayons and twistables or through using coloured card. If the goal is to learn about a country, does it matter if they write sentences in pencil or with marker? Absolutely not. You could even let them type their sentences if the act of writing isn’t the goal. 

Pursuit of Passions

One of the best ways of motivating children to behave and learn is facilitating the pursuit of their passions. During their homeschooling, there could be huge scope for allowing them to focus and learn about areas they are passionate about.

For example, the child who loves football could engage in his P.E through football, his reading could be about his favourite team, his maths could be adding up points in the premier league, his geography could be exploring which football teams belong to which country and his history could be about football during the world war. 

Facilitating their passions in this way could turn a stressful daily struggle to engage them in meaningful learning into an enteraining and educational process where you develop a closer bond with your child.

Intrinsically motivating children can be a tricky process of trial-and-error. It is impossible to know what will provide true inner motivation to drive them to want to engage for the love of the task and its results, but if parents are willing to put in the time thinking, planning and providing options for their child, they might just crack their magic formula for learning. 

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anxiety

Tackle Children’s Anxiety with Journaling

Anxiety is rife right now. The Coronavirus Crisis has fully arrived and everybody is struggling to make sense of this new isolated world we have been thrown into at the deep end. 

Now, more than ever, we need to look out for our children’s mental health. I have written about 6 different ways to prevent or manage your child’s anxiety during this time with a suggestion of journaling as one of the options. I want to dig into the topic of journaling in this post and give some concrete examples of how to bring out its benefits over the coming weeks.

The Case for Journaling Right Now

Shawn Anchor is considered to be an authority on happiness. Shawn contests from his research that the small act of journaling has the potential to help us rewire our brains to scan for the positives instead of the negatives. This rewiring can lead to the writer developing a positive outlook on life in the long term with increased happiness and therefore, reduced anxiety.

As we adjust to this time of uncertainty, helping your child cultivate this positive mindset could protect them from the outside world – such as social media and news channels – that looks to sell fear and increase anxiety. 

There are added benefits to journaling that it will promote literacy skills through the act of putting their thoughts on paper while Shawn also states that happier people are more resilient and 31% more productive.

How to Journal for Children Who Can Write

Shawn suggests writing about the follow prompts for journaling to garner the maximum results:

  • Spend two minutes a day writing down three things you are thankful for. These must be new things each day and can be as big as your family’s health or a small as your bowl of cornflakes.
  • Spend two minutes a day writing about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours. 

Added prompts that may help create a more positive outlook are:

  • Writing down 7 things you are excited for at the start of every day.
  • Write about a “win” you had today. So it could be achieving a new personal best, an improvement in a skill, something difficult that you overcame. Write about why it’s important, how to progress and what your next step will be.

There are additional principles to journaling that are important if being used or attempted in the homeschool or school context.

  • A journal is not be read if the writer does not consent.
  • The parent or teacher can guide the child but there is no need to correct it and do not use this medium for correcting grammar and spelling.
  • Modelling the act of journaling by completing it alongside your child or letting them see you do it is an effective way to encourage them.
  • Using fun pens, markers and stationery is a great way to promote this. Let them choose their journal type with options like bullet journals and regular diaries being widely available online.
  • Let them go off script and design and write what they like as well. A journal is a great way to put thoughts to paper, vent and stoke creativity. If your child is engaged, let their imagination run wild.

Journaling for Children Who Can’t Write

If your child is not at the stage where they are ready to write, but you feel that this is something either you or they want to try, you have some options.

  1. The prompts can be completed by drawing pictures.
  2. The prompts can be completed by having a trusted adult write for them.
  3. The prompts can be completed by recording a video diary on a tablet or phone.
  4. The language of the prompts can be adjusted to be age-appropriate in the following ways:
  • “I am happy because”: Respond with anything that is making them happy.
  • “I am excited to….”: Respond with three things (instead of seven) that they are looking forward to doing that day.
  • “A good thing that happened today was”: Let them come up with a mini-win that they had.

Give it a Go!

In this unique time, we have an opportunity to teach skills for dealing with uncertainty and adversity. Journalling is one such tool that has stood to many of the world’s great creatives and leaders over time so it might be worth encouraging your child to experiment with it.

As always, this is one tool among many others that you can pull out and try to promote positivity and reduce negative emotions. It might not work for everyone but it is certainly worth giving a go!

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anxiety

6 Ways to Help Anxious Children during Coronavirus

We are living in anxious times right now. Some children may be stressed, frazzled and overwhelmed by what is happening and the importance of looking after their mental health is paramount. Telling someone who is feeling anxious not to worry or to forget about it is not an effective solution. What we can do instead is focus on strategies that explicitly strive to reduce anxiety and strategies that are more implicit.

If you have a child who feels anxious, I would suggest you use your judgement based on their personality and interests and select either explicit and direct strategies aimed at promoting well-being or more subtle strategies that will help them settle without even realising it.

Explicit Strategies

Option 1: Breathing/Meditation

Getting your child to try focussing on their breath and striving to be in the moment are great ways to explicitly reduce anxiety. The benefits of these strategies are well known and there is so much content out there to facilitate these kinds of strategies. You might want to choose a physical object like a breathing ball or perhaps you want a youtube video for young children. Older children might enjoy learning about how to do 4-7-8 breathing or engaging in a full-on 5 minute guided meditation aimed at children. There are also apps like Headspace and Calm that provide a certain amount of free content to test out.

Option 2: Journalling

Journalling has a body of evidence to prove it has to power to promote feelings of well-being and happiness making it a great explicit strategy for children feeling anxious who are old enough to write (if your child is young and might enjoy this, they could draw).

Three concrete ways to journal to promote happiness are:

  1. Write seven things you are excited for every morning when you wake up.
  2. Write three things you are grateful for every night before bed.
  3. Write for two minutes about something nice that happened in the past 24 hours.

Some children might like to do all three, some might like to do just one. I would emphasise the key to getting the benefits of this exercise is consistency over a period of two weeks or more for the child to feel the benefits.

For a more detailed explanation of journaling, click here.

Option 3: Yoga

Yoga’s benefits for increasing contentment and reducing anxiety are also well known as the poses, philosophy and breathwork involved all can have a significant impact on a child’s overall sense of well-being. They might like to choose from the wealth of resources at Cosmic Kids Yoga or, perhaps, your child would like to try one of Yoga With Adrienne’s videos for dealing with uncertain times. It’s all about finding something that your child likes and will consistently do.

Implicit Strategies

In some cases, talking about stress and anxiety can amplify it instead of reducing it and giving constant reassurance can actually serve to remind an anxious person that there is, in fact, something to worry about. If this sounds like something that resonates with your child, try more implicit and subtle strategies.

Option 1: Exercise

Getting out and getting active has so many benefits that they go beyond the scope of this article but getting your child out and running, playing playground games, practising a sport, cycling or anything that raises their heart rate will help release those feel-good endorphins that are proven to increase well-being. There is no need to says it’s for their anxiety as the act of doing will be enough to feel the benefits. Actually talking about it might reduce its effects as it may just remind the child how they are feeling. Children should aim for 60 minutes a day and if you have a child who is feeling anxious, getting this hour completed can be doubly important.  

Option 2: Immersive activities

The title of this sounds far fancier than it is. An immersive activity is anything that takes focus or concentration to complete. Engaging in an immersive activity can reduce, prevent or stop thinking about past troubles or future worries as they begin to focus on the task at hand. The joy of this is that most hobbies are immersive. Reading, helping an adult bake, garden work, knitting or sowing, building with lego, painting, playing video games and many other activities require your child to get out of their head an into the task at hand.

Option 3: Reducing the White Noise

We all know social media and the internet has huge benefits but it also has its downsides. Constantly being connected to the world can lead your child to take the world’s worries onto their shoulders. A subtle way to combat this is to ensure that a constant stream of news is not being streamed through the television, radio, tablets and phones in the house. Try to create some space for your child to just exist in their current environment. Avoid constantly talking about world events around your child to prevent unknowingly contributing to their feeling of anxiety through the attention we give a topic.

These six options are a menu. They may seem obvious and you may know their benefits already but remember the difference between knowing and doing. If you are worried about your child and their anxiety levels, experiment with some of these and find what is the formula for success for your child.

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Homeschool parenting

Homeschooling and Coronavirus: A wonderful opportunity

Depending on what lenses you are wearing, what you think you see changes. If you are wearing sunglasses, the object appears dark. If you are wearing the wrong glasses, the object appears blurry. If you wear the correct prescription lenses, the object appears crystal clear. All the time, the object never changes, it’s just how it appears to you that changes.

The same can be said about how you view life events. If you view the world through a negative lens, life appears scary and worrying. If you view the world through a positive lens, life appears full of opportunity and optimism. All the time, the life event never changes, it’s just how it appears to you that changes.

I believe that we can change the way we view life like we can change our glasses. 

Homeschooling: A world of opportunity

We are not in normal times so parents trying to proceed with normal schooling of their children at home with English, maths and all that goes with it is admirable but perhaps a misguided priority. We are in a time where the environment for learning is unique and skills and attitudes that could stand them in good stead for life could be taught over the coming weeks. I see an abundance of digital resources being circulated which is a commendable effort by teachers to maintain control. We should also encourage parents, however, to model and teach the following three lessons as the top priority. This period of time in a child’s life could prove valuable in the long run if harnessed correctly.

Lesson 1: Altruism

This is a great time to teach our children to be altruistic through modelling it. Altruistic behaviour is any act which is selfless and done out of kindness and generosity for others. Imagine coming out of this crisis and knowing that you taught your child to be altruistic? Teaching this can be completed by modelling it and talking about it aloud. When talking about your shopping, talk about the importance of not stockpiling food as others may need more. Make a phone call to a grandparent or anyone who may be vulnerable and discuss how it is important to check in on those in need. Ask them can they think of anyone that they could ring. Discuss how you might buy a gift card for a local restaurant that you go to often because they may be struggling for business lately. Wonder out loud if any of your neighbours might need help at the minute and demonstrate how in times of crisis, it’s just as important to think of others less well off than yourself.

Lesson 2: Resilience 

I had the equivalent of my sunglasses on viewing life events at the end of last week. Everything seemed dark. I have taught myself strategies and habits that work for me, however, to build resilience and maintain calm in tough times and when I actioned these, I felt a lot better. As we are in the midst of a tough time, we have the opportunity to teach these skills to our children who may be worried also. Perhaps you have your own habits that you find useful to help you be calm and clinical in the face of adversity? Discuss them with your children with age-appropriate language. Talk about how if you’re stressed, there are things you can do to relieve and reset your mood. Depending on your and their tastes, this could be adding in something like exercise, meditation, yoga, journaling, fresh air, practicing a hobby, reading a book or removing something like excessive screen time, oversleeping or bad diet choices. If we could emerge from this stressful time with our children equipped with tools to build and maintain their resilience in tough times, wouldn’t that be a powerful impact for the rest of their lives?

Lesson 3: Critical Thinking

We are in the eye of a social media and general media storm. How many stories and rumours can we read or watch in a day if we wish? An infinite amount. The era of information means that news emerges 24:7 with breaking news and critical updates being circulated every minute. The problem is that not everything we read is true or valuable. A lot of it is fake, harmful and click-bait. We now have the time to teach our children how to think critically and filter between what is useful and reliable and what is rumours and speculation in the next few weeks with a bulk of content to use as examples. Impress on them that circulated text messages might not be the most trusted source but the WHO official social media channels might be better. Try to discuss how you might assess the trustworthiness of the content. The criteria could be: Who wrote it? When did they write it? Are they experts, or quoting experts, in the area that they are discussing? Begin by reading out material and discussing it with them and how you critique it. Then read it out and ask them to critique its worth. By the end, you may have a child enabled to search the internet and use it for the valuable source it can be. 

These are three lessons that we, as teachers, try to model and teach to children on a daily basis in schools. Parents, however, have far more impact in influencing how their children act and view the world. I suggest that you use this time valuably and try these three lessons over the coming weeks and then, watch your child grow into someone who can act generously, cope with adversity and think independently. What a wonderful job you will have done.

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parenting

5 Strategies Parents Can Use To Be Like Teachers

Some countries and parents have been thrust into a home-schooling situation that allowed for very little planning and forethought in the lead-up. Alas, we are in the middle of it now and many parents may be questioning where to start, what to do and how best to manage their child whilst educating them. Here are five strategies that might be of use to parents over the coming weeks:

Combat uncertainty with structure

In times of anxiety, people seek to control. Adults and children are no different in this regard. A simple way to combat any anxiety that you may see in your child over the coming weeks is to structure the day and explain it to them every morning so they know what to expect. Let the children have some input into the structure of the day to increase compliance. This will help keep your children remain on task and avoid questions about when they will get to do x or play y as it can be pre-scheduled into their day and explained to them so they know it is coming. This could be done verbally over breakfast or you could make a little chart if you had access to a printer, paper or colours. 

App recommendation for this here.

Choice will be your friend

Giving the children some ownership over the activities they engage with will increase the likelihood of a positive experience. Imposition leads to opposition. The trick is to give them a range of choices that you’re happy with and let them pick whichever ones they like so they feel in control. With clever choices, they are still being guided into the desired activities of your choice, however.

Choice can be provided through the timing or sequence of activities or what the activity actually is. This is an amazing chance for your child to get high-personalised learning tailored completely to their interests so depending on the time you can put in and the resources you have, your child could benefit from intensively getting to explore areas of interest to them.

Language will be important

The language parents use to engage their children in an activity will be important. Being a teacher can be like being a salesperson and in this uncomfortable time, I would suggest avoiding using educational language like “work” or “English” or “maths”. Home is a place for children to relax and imposing this school-based language can encourage resistance or disengagement because of its use outside of the school context. 

I would suggest parents just sell the activity. There is no need to mention the learning or objective of it. There are lots of education in everyday home activities that the children will love to get involved in and getting them to work with you will develop their skills without any need for school talk.

Asking them to help you bake some bread is full of learning between reading and following a recipe, the new language used, measuring the ingredients, ensuring the time and temperature is correct without ever having to tell them its educational. 

The same can be said for home improvement indoors, gardening outdoors, watching educational documentaries, putting on fashion shows with adult clothes, painting and drawing, writing up shopping lists, learning new songs, playing board games, following youtube workouts, practising an instrument, exploring some secluded parts of nature in big parks, field or up in the mountains or making something from a cardboard box and some imagination. There is a myriad of simple but creative ideas.

Build Independence

Day-to-day life is so rushed that we often find it is quicker to complete tasks for children than to allow them the extra time to figure it out for themselves. Now is the time to slow down day-to-day life and foster independence that will stand to them when life inevitably resumes at its hectic pace. This could be as simple as teaching them to make their own breakfast, tie their shoelaces and dress themselves if they are young or cook a meal, do their own washing, use the iron or other key life skills if they are older. This is a unique time and providing this kind of learning could stand them in good stead in the long run.

Finally: Screen Time

I would be the first one to say that I don’t love children spending an abundance of time on screens. But firstly, this is the world we live in and technology is irreversibly going that way and secondly, the world and their mother will be spending additional time on their TVs, tablets, phones and games consoles. I would encourage parents to accept this and harness it where possible. Additional screen time could be a useful reward for helping out or engaging in an activity or it also could be used as a calming measure. These are stressful times and having something enjoyable and immersive can help maintain a sense of calm in your child depending on their personality. You know your child best but I would encourage you to not fight the reality that additional screen time is inevitable with added time at home.

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Categories
Behaviour Management

Coronavirus Kids

We are living in a strange time right now. In Ireland and many other countries, we have been thrust into school closures with the advice of keeping children apart to ensure that coronavirus does not spread. This places sudden and sizeable stress on parents and children alike. Although we could see school closures coming, it came quite fast and children may be at home now with no real school guidance on what the best course of action is. Here are a few thoughts below that may be of help to parents or teachers:

Anxious Children

The media sells fear. This is a known principle of how media drives traffic to their websites and purchases of their newspapers. Anxious children do not need to be exposed to a 24-hour newsfeed about a virus they do not fully understand. Adults do not either. Limit the amount of coronavirus related media that children (and yourself) are exposed to. Limit the amount of talk about the coronavirus around children also. There is no need for children to listen to speculation, repeated reporting and scare-mongering which can be sure to contribute to their anxiety. 

Energetic Children

Children are advised not to mix with other children as they can help spread the disease to the more vulnerable. If you have a child with ADHD, ADD or any abundance of energy, this does not mean that you have to lock them inside. The advice seems to suggest being outside is a safe environment. Go to big parks, fields, forests or anywhere in nature where you believe contact with others will be minimal. Teach your child the concept of social distancing like a bubble around other families and explore places that, otherwise, you might not have the chance to explore.

One of the best ways to maintain a calm, positive environment is to make sure a lively child gets an opportunity to burn off some of their energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and preventing misbehaviour before it has a chance to arise is always a good tip.

Remember: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices!

Educational Activities

As this is an unprecedented event, teachers and parents have been left scrambling at what to do. There has been a noble effort by schools and teachers to direct learning remotely but I believe this is not the way to move forward. 

The teacher may be able to provide some beneficial guidance on applications and websites to utilise or pages in books to complete but this is a wonderful opportunity for your child to experience one-to-one learning that they otherwise would not get.

I would suggest the following list of activities that would be a more beneficial way to spend the bulk of “educational time” while at home:

  • Play board games to teach strategic thinking and problem-solving.
  • Bake or cook dinners together to teach healthy living and weight in maths.
  • Writing out shopping lists for practicing spelling and handwriting.
  • Gardening to teach about science or geography.
  • Paint a fence or a wall to teach about fo
  • Get out into nature for geography and P.E.
  • Play with Lego, mechano or any other construction for science.
  • Get children to dress up in adult clothes for a fashion show for drama.
  • Clean bedrooms and re-organise the house to teach executive functioning skills.
  • Read to your child or have them read to you for English.
  • Listen to podcasts and talk about them for oral language.
  • Bring home a few empty cardboard boxes from the supermarket and let them loose with colours, sellotape and scissors for art.

There is a list of exciting opportunities to entertain, education and enjoy time with your children over the next few weeks. Creativity and energy are needed but the chance to teach your own child should be grasped with both hands. It’s also important to note that the whole world will be spending more time watching television and on screens at the moment and we should reflect this with our children. There is nothing wrong with binge-watching television right now to entertain ourselves in the evening when everyone is tired out.

Control the Controllables

There is very little in our control at the moment regarding the wider world but we can control our actions. The important things we need to impress on our children is that there is no need to panic or worry but there is a need to be careful. We should educate our children to:

  1. Wash their hands with correct technique frequently.
  2. Cough into their elbow.
  3. Practice social distancing.
  4. Avoid mixing with their friends in person (encourage calling their friends on phones).

After these four points, there is very little else we can do right now other than take the positives where we can and enjoy the extra quality time with our loved ones. 

Categories
Behaviour Management

Making a game of Good Behaviour

There are many reward systems and strategies out there that claim to improve classroom behaviour. One system that comes with a bulk of evidence to support its claim is The Good Behaviour Game. This is a system which is proven to increase the desired behaviours and is relatively easy to implement: a win-win for teachers.

How to play

  1.  The teacher displays the list of desired behaviours in the classroom. As per best practice, these are few in number and positively phrased. They might include rules such as raising your hand to speak, eyes on the teacher when they are talking etc. 
  2. The teacher divides the class into groups with an even distribution of personality types (disruptive children, withdrawn children, studious children etc)
  3. The teacher initially plays the game for ten minutes daily for the first week. Teams get a point if they break a rule. If they have 4 points or more, they do not receive the reward. Visibly display the points so children can be reminded of the score and what is and is not acceptable.
  4. The teacher builds the amount of time the game is played for week after week. 
  5. The teacher slowly changes the rewards from immediate rewards – such as jellies, stickers or stationary – to deferred rewards such as additional free time at the end of the week, stickers, extra PE, access to iPads later in the day.

Key Considerations

Ensure that your rule list is small with simple-to-follow instructions. Ensure that the reward on offer is genuinely motivating to the target audience.

Do not overuse the strategy straight away, building up time slowly is essential to its success.

Changing the teams, times and rewards can manipulate the game to maintain interest over the course of a full-term if this is your desired strategy.

The beauty of the strategy is it can be explained in a very short time, does not require huge resources to implement and has research to back its effectiveness. 

Add it to the toolkit and pull it out when required. Enjoy!