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Because we love them

By Susan Hayes

Federal Programs Coordinator

Hartselle City Schools

Nurturing our children involves disciplining them when they are in the classroom and when they are at home. Young children do not have mature inner speech; in other words, they do not talk to themselves inside their heads like adults do. Consider the impact this has on the way adults communicate with children in an attempt to guide them into changing a behavior.

Mature inner speech allows adults to think through the consequences of their actions before they act. Most young children, even knowing the consequence – like loss of TV privileges, etc. – will still choose to misbehave. When the consequence is given, they melt down, begging, “I’ll be good now!”

At around 6-8 years of age, inner speech begins maturing. This means that what used to be only a directive or warning handed down by an adult is now becoming inner speech within a child’s head, prior to an action.

For the first time, a child might have two conversations to attend to at once. They can listen to the chatter in their heads as well as the talk of others. Often they will ask, “What?” even as an adult talks to them. It might appear they are not paying attention to what is being said. To help them through this developmental process, here are some suggestions for a parent or teacher:

1) Stay calm. Remember, “What you focus on, you get more of.” When you are upset, you tend to focus on what you don’t want. When calm, you can focus on the behaviors you do want.

2) Do not shout at your child from across the room. Usually, we will start shouting the child’s name. “Kenny, Kenny, do you hear me? KENNY! Listen to me!” etc. This upset will be followed by a lecture. “I am your mother (father, teacher, etc.), and I expect you to listen to me. Do you hear me? I’m going send you to your room for a week if you don’t stop that!” Instead, walk up to your child and get as close to his face as you can until he makes eye contact with you. Once your child makes eye contact, gently say, “Well, there you are.” Then say, “Room.” One word will be a sufficient reminder for many children. Follow this up with encouragement as he begins to do what you’ve asked of him. You might say, “There you go. You can do it. Sometimes it is just hard to get started.”

3) If your child is not following through with a task, there is a good chance you are not following through with encouragement. You are telling children what you want them to do but not taking the time to celebrate their accomplishments. Children need lots of encouragement. Imagine a football game where everyone sat quietly until a touchdown was made. We need to encourage our children like we do a team attempting to get two yards for a first down!

These suggestions come directly from the website consciousdiscipline.com/free-resources/discipline-tips, which offers parents strategies to address many struggles children have. The site’s tips are focused on nurturing positive behaviors and decisions as opposed to addressing negative behaviors. All is based on the work of Dr. Becky A. Bailey.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded of our own role in how a child responds and behaves and grows into adulthood – because we love them!