As a certified school psychologist, family therapist, former elementary school teacher, and a parent. I would like to share what I learned what successful, teachers and parents do to produce children who are happy and resourceful.
1. These children were not labeled. They were not called lazy, slow, unfeeling. Instead they were told that they were the most wonderful people who ever came down the pike. While what they did was not always acceptable, that did not make them unlovable or unworthy as a person. They experienced having the deed separated from the doer.
2. They were constantly encouraged for the effort they were making and not just occasionally praised for being the best and top of the heap.
3. They were caught doing things right and not just noticed and punished when they were doing something wrong.
4. Disapproval was communicated to them by the use of “I” not “You” statements. The “You” statement places blame and is a verbal attack: “You are a bad boy.” The “I” statement tells how the person feels and how another person’s behavior affect them. “I get upset when you do not put your toys away because someone might trip and get hurt.”
5. They were nurtured by people who understood that perfection is a utopian concept and that it is okay to make mistakes. People around them made mistakes, acknowledged them and learned from them. They were able to develop the courage to be imperfect.
6. Their unique temperaments were encouraged, accepted and understood, not stifled and nullified.
These parents and teachers understood that:
1. Children are concrete thinkers. They cannot figure out what is expected of them if they are told only what they did that was wrong. They also need to be told what they did was right.
2 Misbehaving children are discouraged and cannot learn. They need to be helpedl to feel that they are important members of the group.
3. They are the children’s models. “Do as I say, not as I do” never works.
4. They cannot demand respect from children if they are not respectful of them.
5. Children need to be told and to experience that they are accepted and loved conditionally.
I would like to add a further caution to parents. As more emphasis is being placed on test scores which can be quantified, activities which cannot be quantified are being neglected or excluded altogether from the curriculum. Look around at your child’s kindergarten class and notice if there is still a housekeeping corner, a make-believe store, a box with old clothing for dress-up. Or in the other grades, notice if blackboards are still easily accessible or have they all been covered up? Is most of the communication initiated by the teacher with follow-up activities consisting of quiet students filing in individual sheets? Do students spend a great deal of time working alone at computers?
If so, you will have to provide activities outside of school whereby your children can interact, communicate and negotiate face to face with their peers. There is a potential problem when even games like the old standby Monopoly are playing on the impersonal internet. Even children’s sports, which used to provide opportunities for them to interact with each other, have been taken over by adults with little input from the children.
We do not want to raise a generation of children who not only prefer but who are better at communicating with machines than with people. Rather, we want to raise a generation of happy, productive, and fulfilled adults.