– Alex, my child, is not ok in his new class. My boy Karl is so scared of something. I meet him after school, around 4 pm, he is all sweat, and his skin smells like a wet chicken. I can hear his steps from far away, clap-clap, clap-clap, and when he sees me, he runs faster in my lap and hugs me. He does not talk about school with me.
And yesterday, oh yesterday, it was a mess. Karl started to scream and cry, and he knocked on the ground when I met him. I asked him: what’s going on? I did not know what to do, I held him in my arms, and I just said let’s go and buy some delicious ice cream. With the ice cream, all went well, but he did not want to talk about what happened in that day at school.
When my friend stopped, I asked her:
– What else did you do?
– I tried to explain to him how we should behave when other people are around us, and I told him what to do: to pick his stuff from the ground, clean himself and to be quieter.
I had this rule
I had this rule, and maybe you struggle with it also, that I must civilise the child. And this rule said to me that I should control the child’s behaviour. That means, I tell the child what to do, and after that, I expect obedience. I thought about my beginnings as a parent when I used to believe that the child needs to do what the parent want because the child is in a position of knowing less and not having good judgment. And it is my view that must prevail. This rule put me in the awkward situation of trying to control someone else’s behaviour. Perhaps you think it is relatively easy. It’s not so difficult with elephants or with horses, but with kids, it might be a challenge. Not only with children, but also with adults it did not work. With my loving wife, it never worked, neither with my brother nor with my co-workers when I served as a project manager.
The friendly conversation from the beginning was for me an illustration of a situation when the child is completely detached from his mother and wants to do anything to capture her care, her attention. I think you also noticed, that when kids feel detached, they do not respond well at all, they misbehave, they complain a lot.
The way that the brain works remarkable is when we feel close and attached especially to the loved ones. The sense of connection satisfies the emotional, social centre of our mind and then allows us to access our short term memory. Makes it possible to play and make good decisions about what we try to do. Shorter said: it allows us thinking. So thinking depends on feeling close and connected. If you’re wondering why sometimes your child sometimes does not hear you at all, this is why. If you’re wondering why your child is always answering to your question “How was school today?” with “Fine”, this is why. And that’s because children’s first language is not verbal. Eye contact, touching, smiling and hugs and play first and after that answers will come.
When children go to kindergarten or school, they leave home generally feeling close and connected at least to one parent. But by the time when got back from school, they are distressed, confused and detached from us. That means totally “unplugged” from his parents. That is because, in many schools, teachers do not have too much time to connect with all kids.
Now the smart teachers know that children who feel disconnected do not respond well to the class and are not good at learning new things. And also they can cause lots of difficulties: break class materials, require a lot of attention from the teacher and do not cooperate with other kids. But when the child connects with the teacher, sensational thinks happen: they make real progress in the class, they work better in cooperation with other kids, and they are learning lots of new things. And then, the parent asks himself: When did my child learn so many new things?
Stories from Switzerland
Here in Switzerland, I loved a habit from the moment I saw it. I’m talking about those minutes when my girl and her colleagues enter the kindergarten. That is because at the entrance all the teachers from the class are waiting for the kids and shake hands and have eye contact with every single one of them. Of course only if the child agrees. My girl, for example, did not accept it from the beginning.
But that moment when the child is entering in the class, and the teacher touches and makes the eye contact has a great value.
Also at the beginning of a summer holiday, I noticed something amazing at a teacher in a public kindergarten. When she was saying goodbye and wishing a happy holiday, she asked every of his students if they want a hug. Other kids from other groups were just staring at this sensational teacher hugging her students, like at a magic theatre play. And that’s because other teachers just shake hands and said goodbye.
Starting with these two actions, you can instantly design a daily exercise. With your spouse or your partner or your child shake hands or hug and then for one minute share a prolonged gaze into each other’s eyes. Start from today to implement this habit and miracles will happen.
What works well and why
After working one on one with people and in corporations with teams and being married for almost ten years and serving kids for more than two decades, I have made most of the mistakes you can make — numerous times. As a result, I have begun to see certain activities what works well with kids. And these are my two practices that work amazing.
Use quick connectors
1) When you meet your child:
– Touch each other gently, make eye-contact, and share a gaze into each other’s eyes.
– Smile and be as happy as possible that you see your child. You should not forget that your body language says more than you think.
– Smile and even laugh or do a funny, quick trick. That’s for showing that you are well, in a good mood and playful.
If you can’t do one or more actions from above, then try to talk to someone about how was for you to meet your parents when you were young. I can be that person but is not mandatory. You can simply do it with a friend who is available for 15 minutes, just for you, only to listen to you.
For example, when my girl sees me after several hours in the kindergarten, we are both yelling (She is yelling daddy, and I’m screaming her name.), we are running in each other’s arms, we are smiling and hugging and I’m kissing her all over her head. After that, I try to look into her eyes.
In case your kid is older, you will probably say:
“For us, this is not going to work. If I touch, smile and be playful my child will not say miracles happen to mum, it will say that is something wrong with me.”
No problem if your child is older. This easy approach also works for you. I recommend to you to bring yourself near your child, stand there and just be there. Do not talk too much, do not ask too many questions! And you will see that the talking will start from your child side. And at that moment do not judge and do not give pieces of advice! If you are going to do that, you are going to break the bridge built between the two of you. Just listen! Just be there!
Also for improving your relationship with your spouse you can read the first three statements from point 1) and replace “child” with “husband” or “wife”. And write me a comment to tell me what you felt.
2) Start a connection sprint and follow the tiny leader
What does this mean? It means to do an activity that the child wants to do for a definite period.
Start with: “I will do whatever you want for X minutes.”
What for? Also for making the connection parent-child meaningful and powerful, for your child to begin to open up and talk.
Things work this way: You, as a parent, should listen more. Bring yourself, stand there and accept your child exactly as he/she is. Even if the child is crying, you should only listen. No punishments, no rewards just listen.
I fully understand you if you can’t listen to your child when is crying or is yelling, or hits you or is having a tantrum. I started to read and learn more about these issues because I faced all of them. I requested help and received help. If you need support, or you need somebody to listen to you, just search for assistance. When someone listens to you, you simply start to view some aspect of your life in a different light.
I will give a short example of me making one quick connection sprint of 12 minutes with my daughter.
My daughter: Do you want to play with me?
Me: Yes, after dinner. We can do whatever you want for 12 minutes.
My daughter: Yuppie!
And she kindly chooses first to fly the plane and be the stewardess and serve me some quinoa with vegetables. I was also the pilot and the only passenger. And after that, I was her patient at the dentist. And she was the practitioner. And she repaired a couple of my teeth with only a wood stick. After those 12 minutes had passed, we went quickly through the night routine, with my girl riding on my back and me pretending to search for the bathroom. Every laugh is a quick connector and brings a good sleep.
I know how it is to be in a rush. No time for anything. But if you start to use these connection sprints, everybody in the family will be happier.
For the older kids, you should not announce the connection sprint. You are just there and stay close say as few as it is possible. You can also use active listening. About active listening I’m going to write another article.