Tuesday, March 12, 2013

LOSING CONTROL

Maintaining control over children...let's think about that for a minute.

It's a typical school day, and it's my responsibility to get a child to do something.  

Perhaps I'm a parent or a teacher, a childcare or school staff member.  Maybe I'm an administrator, a department of education policy writer or a homeschooling advocate.  I could be a private gymnastics coach,  nanny or tutor, a therapist or pediatric nurse, a pediatrician or pediatric neurologist.  I could even be a children's acting, voice or dance instructor, or a teenager trying to make some gas money, so I'm babysitting or working at Chuck E Cheese.  

All I want is for that child or those children to do whatever it is that I told them to do.

Let's think about the number of people who have thoughts about controlling children's actions or who are saying things, doing things or writing things in an effort to control children...how many thoughts or deeds would that be daily?  I think we're in the realm of astronomical numbers.

Now let's think about how it feels when someone is trying to control you; everything you say or do...everything.

And what do those who are attempting to control the children feel?

For some adults it's automatic, and no thinking or conscious feelings are involved.  The alarm rings and a string of commands simply pops out of their mouths. "Get up." "Wash up." "Get dressed." "Eat your breakfast." "Brush your teeth." "Grab your lunch." "Put it in your back pack." "Shut off the TV." "Get in the car." 

Some adults feel anxious in their role, and might add comments that are aimed at helping the child do better, but may actually end up causing anxiety. "You're going to be late." "That blouse looks too small on you." "Remember, you've got that spelling test today."

Others may feel sad or frustrated that almost none of their commands are being followed.  They might end up feeding and dressing a 7 year old and carrying him to the car, all the while wishing someone else would help them to get it all done, at least some of the time. Maybe they do have help and feel grateful for the support.  Maybe they see others getting support when they don't, and feel envious.

Still other adults might feel angry and work against their own goals for a child, overtly or covertly (consciously or unconsciously) threatening or berating the child, when, actually, all they really want is for the child to be successful (which, of course = happy).

It really all comes down to wanting our children to be successful and happy, productive members of society who we can brag about.

Over the years I've thought a lot about a lot of things...I'm big into problem solving and seeing things from different perspectives.

For instance, I'm a believer in focusing in on the big picture in order to get motivated about learning the small pieces.  

First focus on telling a story (as a toddler), then learn to document or write that story (learning phonics and spelling skills lastly, as a result). Traditionally we learn in this order: letter names, letter sounds/phonics, spelling [first words, then sentences, paragraphs, stories] (which I believe is backwards).  I know, it seems impossible that this could be backwards, but keep reading!

Whenever possible I focus on the end result first, before all the steps to get there.  For example, as a speech therapist, if I want a child to say, "I love you, Mommy!" functionally,  I teach him that WHOLE THING, WHILE HE IS LOOKING AT HIS MOTHER, (imagine that)...rather than working on the AH sound, then the M sound, then MA, then MOM, then MOMMY and putting off LOVE, because L and V are later-developing sounds.  Oh, and then having to teach him good eye contact, in order for him to say it while making good eye contact with his mother.  (Really Noelle? You should know better...it's a four word utterance...Noelle, get real...he's having trouble getting single words out!). 

I simply don't think like that any more. Not me. Instead, I go for the END GOAL immediately--and then work on focusing on and perfecting the details.  I do it every day and IT ACTUALLY WORKS!

So, I propose that all adults focus on doing whatever we have to do immediately to help our kids feel happy and successful NOW...every moment, every morning, every day, through love and humor, instead of focusing on controlling each small detail or step, on our way to our goal of success and happiness.

"Good morning, sweetheart!" "You are the best boy in the world." "I love seeing you first thing in the morning!" "You're such a great helper! Where are those shoes hiding! You found them.  Do they go on your ears? No? Where do they go? Oh, on your feet?  Do you need me to help you with putting them on, or can you do it by yourself?" "Should you eat or brush your teeth first? Really? Why is that?" "It's a beautiful, rainy day. The trees are taking a big drink!" [Ok...I'll admit that's a stretch :-)]  "The first one in the car, with his seat belt on (without getting hurt or hurting anyone else) gets to choose the CD or radio station!"

Ready, Set, GO!

I'm Noelle Michaels, speech and learning specialist, and I truly love my job!

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