Running around the house as fast as they can go, weaving in and out of furniture. Both barefoot and both laughing hysterically.
It always starts happy and ends poorly.
Yup, he stubbed his toe. It was only a matter of time before it happened.
He comes over to me and I begin to tell him that he should have been more careful. I start to tell him, “I told you this was going to happen.”
But this time I didn’t. This time I realized that it was more important to see how my two year-old son was doing than it was to give him a lecture on how to be safe when running around a house at one hundred miles per hour.
It didn’t take much on my part. A quick kiss on his boo boo and off he went. Back into the whirling vortex of childhood play. All was well again.
Yet, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between this morning’s toe stubbing incident and events that take place at schools everyday.
As administrators, what do we often do when a child is sent to the office for disciplinary reasons? We discuss what did they did wrong when maybe first we should be asking them, “what is wrong?”
Like the incident with my two-year old son, I believe it is more important to treat the child first and the discuss the event second. To me this makes sense on many levels.
First, an angry or emotional child is not going to be receptive to lectures or life lessons anyway, so why bother? We might as well calm them down and get them in a frame of mind ready to receive advice and ready to listen to an adult. How many times have we made stupid mistakes and then immediately afterwards been open to and excited about receiving criticism and suggestions from a colleague or worse, a superior? Probably not too often.
Next, the child may have had a legitimate reason for doing what they did? I’ll never forget an incident that took place several years ago in which I observed a student punching another student as they were both exiting the bus. I quickly handled the situation by taking them both into my office to find out just what exactly was going on? Once in my office, the boy who connected with the punch proceeded to tell me how the other student had stolen his bike out of his shed the night before. The other boy admitted it and seemed to think it was funny, showing no remorse whatsoever. Now, nobody deserves to get punched but … that boo boo needed to be treated and it needed to be treated right away!
Finally, when we show kids that our first priority is their well-being they begin to trust a little more. And, when they trust us a little more, they begin to listen to us a little more . This is where the magic can happen. This is when we start to make a difference and can begin to help our students rewrite their life scripts.
So the next time you have to handle a situation in which you know a child has misbehaved, but you also know that they are sad, mad or distressed, think twice before you make your next move. Lecturing or scolding may not be the best choice. Maybe your best option is to first fix the boo boo.