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Challenging Behavior Redefined
September 3, 2019
Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.
-Margaret Mead

In an article on the NBC News website, early childhood consultant Tamar Jacobson writes:

"At a conference about discipline this year, people in the room shared stories about children’s negative behaviors, which they labelled ‘attention-seeking.’ It made me wonder why children wanting attention is such a negative idea: Did we learn as children that it was bad, or even shameful, to want attention in the first place? And then, during the discussion at my session, I said: What if instead of saying (or thinking), ‘She is just doing it for attention… ignore her,’ we said (or thought) instead, 'She is just doing it for relationship.’

I discovered that, when we replaced the idea of children seeking attention with children wanting a relationship, we began to talk differently about how, as adults, to react. For example, in relationship, we don’t ignore a person’s cry out for us; we become more present, listening and observing patiently.”

And speaking of the importance of relationships, Deb Curtis, writing in an Out of the Box Training Kit, “Seeing How Children See Us,” describes some key factors in helping children develop a trusting relationship with adults. She asks educators to reflect on these questions:

  • "Do our faces show delight or consternation?
  • Do our hands soothe or scold?
  • Do our voices invite singing together or command silence?
  • Do our bodies overwhelm children with our size and power or wrap them up in comfort?"

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/child-s-bad-behavior-isn-t-attention-seeking-she-s-ncna1015266

Out of the Box Training Kits

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The Out of the Box Training Kit, "Seeing How Children See Us," offers teachers opportunities for studying themselves to discover what young children see in adults' body language.

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Comments (4)

Displaying All 4 Comments
Terry Kelly · September 07, 2019
Seneca College
Toronto, ON, Canada

I have heard Dr. Gabor Mate reframe our thinking similarly: What if we changed the word "attention" to "attachment". Children who spend up to 55 hours a week in child care and/or school are hungry for attachment. Of course they are. "Behaviour" is communication. Sometimes very loud communication.

And thanks also to Deb from Champlain College and Growing Wonder. Beautiful and needed sentiments. I often say, spirituality is the missing domain.

Donna Dhoostelaere · September 04, 2019
Aldea Montessori
Phoenix, AZ, United States

The Nurtured Heart Approach has been teaching this philosophy for over 20 years. If you want to begin living this in your classroom and in your life, check out the Children's Success Foundation online or read any of Howard Glasser's books on the subject. You won't be disappointed and you can begin from day 1. I've been using NHA in my Montessori classroom for 6+ years and it truly is transformative!

Kim Overton · September 03, 2019
The Nueva School
Hillsborough, CA, United States

I love this and appreciate seeing it reinforced! I think many of us know that the children (people) who need us most often are the hardest for us to interact with and support.
Thanks for sharing!

Deborah Schein · September 03, 2019
Champlain College and Growing Wonder
Minneapolis, MN, United States

I agree with both Tamar and Deb. Their words remind us to take a close look at how we are personally relating to each child. An added piece of the lens here is a sense of spiritual connection. If we begin each relationship as spiritual beings...really seeing the other in front of us, we would be more apt to response with respect which quickly leads to trust. In my work in the spiritual lives of young children and their parents, teachers, caregivers, we jump right to the essence of what to do rather than have to try to go back and fix the wrong.

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