Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tattling, Telling, and Teaching

Kiddos will come up to adults at all times of the day stating various wrong doings of others that may range from minor to severe.  So many, including children, view this is as tattling.  Over these last two years I have given this serious thought, and I disagree with this label.  Other people's feelings and/or perceptions are real and need to be valued.  Outside of fear of retaliation, children often don't tell anyone because they don't believe anyone will listen to them.  Why would kiddos think someone would listen to them if they shared an unkindness towards them?  So often they are told to get over it, do something else, or ignore the problem.

We need to teach children how to be assertive.  No one deserves to be treated unkindly.  Teaching children how to use I Statements and engage in reflective listening will help them kindly assert their social-emotional needs.  It also creates a safe way for the child being unkind to hear the impact of his/her words and/or actions.  Books that I enjoy using to engage children in conversations about assertion include Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and Mean Jean the Recess Queen.  Each has a simple message and is told in a fun relevant way.  Rich conversations always ensue about how to treat others and what to do when unkindness ensues.  My teachable moment is then created and I can teach my students how to use I Statements.

About I Statements and Reflective Listening... They are difficult for kiddos to do independently without a lot of modeling, coaching, and support.  BUT well worth the time and effort.  They empower children to own their feelings by naming them and recognizing what their limits are.  Not to mention how valued they feel when their classmate hears what upset them and why.  Also, it provides a way for children to understand their behavior, or reactions.  Over time they come to realize that snatching a pencil out of someone's hand because of something that happened an hour/day/week ago in an unhealthy way of releasing anger.

If a child comes up to me to tell me about an unkindness and I don't have the time to listen right then I say, "I want to hear what you have to say, but I am unable to listen to you right now.  I will make sure to get to you by _____ (and give them a time frame)."  This does a couple of things.  First, it lets them know that I value them.  Second, it gives them time to reflect.  This is invaluable because often times, by the time I am able to talk with them, they were able to utilize a strategy that I have taught them (I statements, ways to agree), they have deemed it unimportant, or they have had time to calm down which allows them to be more objective.

About making the time to listen.  I do just that.  Sometimes I will thank them for telling me, particularly if I can tell it was a difficult thing for them to do.  I help the children work through it.  This may mean helping them articulate their feelings.  Often I can be heard saying, "It sounds like you are feeling _______."   It may mean helping them understand the situation, "It sounds like ____ was upset about _______ and _______ reacted to _______."  But most often it means helping them talk to the other person.  At the beginning of the school year kiddos expect me to 'chew out' another kiddo for what they have said or done.  As the year goes on, they request that I help them talk to the other person.