By Susan Magnotta
Having our children grow up to become kind, productive, independent, happy, contributing members of society are important goals for the majority of parents. We put so much thought and effort into doing all we can to provide a healthy environment in which our children can flourish. The journey of parenting can be a long and arduous one, with the rewards not often realized for many years. While in the fray, it can be helpful to look to the experience of others who have travelled down these same roads.
And who have logged more miles in working with children than our teachers? These special individuals have nurtured, instructed, and in many ways, parented countless children through the years. Maintaining control of yourself AND a classroom of kids is no small feat. These teachers agreed to let us in on their secrets and how they can be applied to make life at home more manageable. Here is what they had to say:
Walk the talk: Good Behavior Begins with You!
DON’T TANTRUM: This means YOU, mom and dad. It is hard to expect our children not to lose control if we are doing it ourselves. Veteran teacher Ruth Krakosky says, “The minute you find yourself yelling, the problem is no longer the child’s, it is yours. If you lose control and yell, they will too.” Retired Abington Heights Middle School teacher, Sheila Czarkowski, offers similar advice, “Once you start yelling, you will always have to yell because kids won’t think they have to listen when you speak in a normal tone of voice.” “Yelling and raising your voice can be humiliating to kids,” says Danielle Garnett, of North Pocono School District. “There are better ways to get your point across.” Easier said than done, you may be thinking. But thankfully, these teachers also offered practical tips on how to keep it together.
KEEP THE TANK FUELED: It is very difficult to keep a cool head when your reserves are low. If you find yourself yelling a lot, it may be time to reevaluate what is going on in your own life. Overscheduling and not taking time to recharge our batteries can run us ragged. It may be time to pare down the kids activities and purposefully set aside some time during the day for ourselves. While there isn’t a magic solution that works for everyone, a walk, cup of coffee or hot bath can go a long way in helping us maintain perspective when the kids are driving us crazy. Even just the desire to maintain a peaceful home may work in the end. “I just try and be conscious of trying hard not to raise my voice,” says Jessie Gorant, middle school teacher from New Jersey.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Avoid Bad Behavior Before it Begins
SET KIDS UP TO SUCCEED: Don’t put kids in situations where failure is inevitable. Parents with young children may want to avoid long trips to the mall or late dinners in a restaurant. “Little ones often don’t have the maturity to reign in their emotions,” says Krakosky. Wise parents won’t put children in situations they cannot handle.
GIVE CHILDREN CHOICES: People in general react negatively when they feel they have no control over their situation. “It is important to give children the opportunity to make some decisions for themselves so they too will feel they have a sense of control,” says Gorant. It is a chance for them to learn that their choices bring consequences, both positive and negative and that they must deal with the outcomes of their decisions.
COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS CLEARLY & GET A VERBAL COMMITMENT: Take the time BEFORE you reach your destination to explain what is going to happen and how you expect your children to behave. “We are going to be in this long line and are going to be tired and hot. It may be difficult, but I need you to stand nicely and behave. Then we will be able to see the movie. DO YOU THINK YOU CAN DO THAT?” They now have the “power” to say “yes” or “no.” “Most children will almost always say “yes” to reasonable requests. It becomes their choice to behave well and mostly they will realize that what you are asking them to do is not unreasonable,” says Gorant.
When Bad Behavior Happens…Because Sometimes It Does:
USE LOTS OF EYE CONTACT: “Sometimes it is enough to just stand near a child and not say anything. Place a hand on his shoulder, bend down, look him in the eyes and tell him what he is doing wrong,” says Krakosky. “If kids aren’t listening, it helps stop talking and just look at them. That usually gets their attention,” says Czarkowski.
GET OUT OF DODGE: When possible, remove the child from the situation. You have explained to Suzie that she can have ice cream if she sits quietly at the table and she agrees that she can do so. After a previous warning, you turn around to find her standing on her chair again. Unfortunately, she has left you no choice but to pack up and leave…without the cone. “If a child is acting up, it is much better to calmly leave the situation and not try to settle her down in the moment. She will eventually realize that there will be consequences for poor behavior,” says Krakosky.
REVIEW: After the dust settles, discuss what went both right and wrong. “Always explain that it is the behavior with which you are disappointed, not the child,” says Czarkowski. Review with them. Teach them to think things through, ‘If you don’t tell the truth, it will be harder to trust you and I won’t be able to give you privileges.’ “Talk with children about how they can do things differently in the future and that their behavior has repercussions-both good and bad. But do it gently, says Gorant.
Remember That Kids are People Too:
EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES: Just like adults, kids make mistakes. “They have good days and bad days. As parents, we just have to keep the big picture in mind and be consistent,” says Czarkowski. “Kids are too immature to know when they need a break and may act out when frustrated, it is our job teach them to recognize their internal cues,” says Danielle Garnett.
A LITTLE RESPECT GOES A LONG WAY: “If children believe that you really care about them, treat them with respect and don’t embarrass them, they will want to work with you and please you,” says Czarkowski. “Express your displeasure about a child’s behavior privately so the child does not feel humiliated in front of his or her peers,” says Garnett.
EXPECT THE BEST AND YOU WILL OFTEN GET IT: Children innately want to please. As Jessie Gorant says, “If we approach kids with the belief that they will make the right choices, most of the time they will.”
A special thanks to our panel of very special teachers who offered their incredible insight: Sheila Czarkowski, retired elementary and middle school teacher, Abington Heights; Danielle Garnett, 1st Grade Reading Specialist, Moscow Elementary Center; Jessie Gorant, middle school teacher, New Jersey, Ruth Krakosky, retired elementary school teacher, Wyoming Valley West.