Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teaching Little Ones

From Top Left: 1. My youngest daughter collecting feathers; 2. Yep, reading glasses are helpful in my old age
3.  My feather collection on my office pin board courtesy of my kids  4.  Dusty, our mouser is fully recovered from his ordeal

Today I am thankful for scripts.
"Scripts?"  you ask...
Of all things to be thankful for...scripts???

I know it is unusual, but as I was driving my little ones to 
their first day of gymnastics, I realized that scripts have become 
a very important teaching tool for my children.
I learned the concept of scripts mostly from my time spent in real estate.
Scripts are important in any sales job
(think about Chick Fil A; car salesman, etc.)
but they are also very useful in teaching children to practice and become
socially adept and kind, thoughtful citizens.

For example, a while back I came across a script
to use with children when apologizing.
(I don't take credit for this script...I am not sure where I read this on-line but
would give credit if I did!!  I also may not be using the exact wording but 
this version works very well for me.)
Instead of telling them to apologize and them screaming "Sorry!"
in a nasty voice, clearly not sorry at all, 
this script slows down the apology process and makes them think about 
what an apology is and what it is for.
When I first started this script, 
I would send the offender to his/her room to think about 
the answers ahead of time so that they were 
putting in an effort to go through the process and
not coming up with basic, nonspecific answers.
It does take time and training, but after a few times,
they got the hang of it and now apologies are heartfelt.

Today as we were in the truck, 
Z (my youngest boy...6yo... and a twin to N) 
and his twin sister, N,
were talking.
Clearly not wanting to hear what his sister had to say,
Z, in a very loud voice, says, "Blah Blah Blah." overtop of N's words.
This obviously angered and hurt his sister, 
so he screamed the obnoxious "Sorry" at her.
That is where I stepped in.

"Z, that apology is not acceptable.  You need to apologize the correct way."
Because we have practiced and I have prompted them for several weeks now,
he knew what I was talking about and began the process of walking through the script
and filling in the answers to make the apology more meaningful to 
not only his sister, but also to him.
This method of apology teaches BOTH kids about correct social interaction,
about caring and loving other humans, 
and about self monitoring and correcting their own behavior.
Here is the script I use with Z's answers to today's issue:

1.  I AM SORRY FOR...(Insert a specific description of what the offense was.)
Z- "I am sorry for saying Blah Blah Blah while you were talking."

This step helps the child identify exactly what was incorrect behavior whereas
the typical SORRY scream doesn't make sure the child knew what they even did wrong.
At first my kids struggled with this...they would just say a generalization...
I am sorry for being mean.
That isn't good enough...it has to be SPECIFIC.

2.  IT WAS WRONG BECAUSE...(insert specific description of WHY it was wrong 
and/or how it made the other person feel.)
Z- "It was wrong because I was not being a good listener."
Me- How do you think that made her feel?
Z- "It was also wrong because it made you feel like what you were saying wasn't important."

This step helps develop empathy and also helps them further realize social concepts of 
right and wrong and how to treat others.  
This, in my opinion, is the most difficult step for kids.
Their world revolves around them (developmentally) and it is not easy for them
to put themselves in someone else's shoes.
This step requires the most modeling from me as a typical response at first would be,
"It was wrong because it was mean."

3.  NEXT TIME I WILL...(insert specific description of what the CORRECT behavior would look like.)
Z-"Next time I will use my manners to listen to you quietly 
without interrupting you."

This step also needs guidance as most kids will just say something general like,
"Next time I will be nice."
That is not an adequate answer.  It needs to be specific to the offense.

By this time, usually the offender is crying because he/she feels terrible for what 
he/she did.  They are learning that their actions and words can hurt others
and he/she is truly sorry for what they did.

This is where the lessons for the victim (for lack of better word) comes in.
The victim then needs to treat the offender with grace and either 
decide to accept or decline the apology.
If he/she declines the apology, I make him/her say why they do not accept 
and then tell the other person what they can say or do to help them accept it.
I RARELY have had the children NOT accept the apology,
especially under this new script with well thought out, specific, heart-felt responses.

The last piece of the apology, but perhaps no less important,
is that I require the two people to look at each other in the eye.
To convey the sincerity of the apology, 
I think it is important to teach our children to look at the person 
to whom they are speaking.

I am not a child psychologist.
I am not saying this is how it should be done in every household.
I am simply sharing, as a mother, what does and does not work for me.
You can take this script and adapt to your needs.

I have other scripts I use as well,
one in particular was useful today when they were meeting new children at gymnastics,
but I will talk about that another day as this is already too long.
Have a blessed day.

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