Teaching Kids to Use Positive Self-Talk

By Allison Wedell Schumacher

Teaching Kids to Use Positive Self-TalkBelieve it or not, one of my proudest parenting moments happened in the middle of the night when I was lying in bed. My daughter, who was about four years old at the time, had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom, but instead of using the one right next to her room, she padded down the hall and through our bedroom to use ours (no idea why). The problem with that bathroom is that it has no windows, which makes it hard to find the light switch at night—particularly if said light switch is over your head. My daughter would often get frustrated and wake one of us up to help her turn on the light. But instead, on this particular night, I heard a little voice saying over and over, “I can do it. I can do it.” And sure enough, she did. I smiled to myself and rolled over to go back to sleep.

What my daughter was doing is something she had learned in her social-emotional skills program at school (and yes, from her dad and me, too) called positive self-talk. She basically convinced her own brain that she was capable of doing a task that she had yet to be successful at, and it worked. And although there’s plenty of research on how positive self-talk—also called affirmations or positive thinking—can help us with everything from professional sports to relationships, the research really only confirms what common sense has told us all along: We’re only as good as we think we are.

So how can you make positive self-talk work for your child? First, identify the problem. Is it that test coming up? A soccer game? Working up the courage to ask the teacher for help? The more specific, the better.

Next, make sure the self-talk focuses on what your child can actually control. “My teacher will give me an A” isn’t practical because your child can’t control how his teacher gives out grades. But he can control how hard he works and how well he prepares for a task, so “I’ll do my very best on the test” is a better choice.

The next step is to practice, and that’s where the word “talk” really comes into play. In order to help your child get into the habit of focusing her mind on these positive messages, have her say them out loud. It doesn’t have to be loud or boisterous—she can just mutter them under her breath if she wants—but encourage her to speak her affirmations whenever possible rather than just thinking them. It might help your child relax if you say them with her the first few times. If your child can read, consider putting the phrase on a sticky note where she’ll see it at least a couple of times a day—the bathroom mirror or her bedside table, for example.

Hopefully after a few days, positive self-talk will become a regular habit, and you and your child will start seeing the fruits of your labor. Whether it’s making a hole-in-one on the mini golf course or just flipping a simple bathroom light switch, you’ll find that positive self-talk helps immensely and has many more practical applications.

Allison Wedell SchumacherAllison Wedell Schumacher is a freelance writer, editor, and mom whose diverse work focuses on child abuse prevention, bullying prevention, social-emotional learning, fitness, and theater/acting. She is the author of Shaking Hands with Shakespeare: A Teenager’s Guide to Reading and Performing the Bard (Simon and Schuster, 2004), and her work has been featured here and at babycenter.com, MomsRising.org, and Committee for Children. You can find her on LinkedIn.


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Suggested Resources
Be Positive! A book about optimism
I Like Being Me: Poems about kindness, friendship, and making good choices


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5 Ways to Make Character Education Work in the Classroom

By Garth Sundem, author of Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Character

5 Ways to Make Character Education Work in the ClassroomIn a 1978 episode of the Muppet Show, Sam the Eagle says to rock star Alice Cooper, “Let me come right to the point. You, sir, are a demented, sick, degenerate, barbaric, naughty freako!” For educators of a certain vintage, this was our first experience with character education. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Cooper says, “Why, thank you!” and poor Sam the Eagle chalks up one point for freakos and zero for civilization. Since lecturing students about their character flaws does about as much to instill grit, kindness, creativity, humility, persistence, and courage as a moralizing puppet’s attempts to reform Alice Cooper do, the question is, what does work?

One good source for answers is a report titled “What Works in Character Education” by Marvin W. Berkowitz, a Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor in Character Education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Education, and Melinda C. Bier. It is a summary of research-based character education programs.

“Character education is not optional in school—it is inevitable,” Berkowitz and Bier write. According to their research, here are five characteristics of successful character education programs:

1. Family and/or Community Involvement
In some successful character education programs, parents, families, and community members are “consumers” of the program themselves—they learn about character along with students. In other programs, family and community are partners in character education, working with schools and teachers to implement and deliver a character education program. No matter the mechanics of exactly how parents and the community are involved in a school’s character education program, this involvement is an important feature of a program’s success.

2. Explicit Agenda
Character education takes place in the background of everything you do every minute of every day in your classroom. The extent of this background learning depends on the unmeasurable, and sometimes ephemeral, sum of how you interact with your students and how you shape your students’ actions and attitudes in your classroom. However, Berkowitz and Bier find that programs designed to specifically improve character do best when time is set aside for character education. When you’re teaching character, tell your students that you are teaching character. In addition to the implicit learning of your classroom environment, when it’s time for character education, make the learning explicit.

3. Integration into the Academic Curriculum
On the surface, this seems to contradict the previous point: How can you set aside time for character education while making it part of the curriculum? What Berkowitz and Bier mean by this is that character education shouldn’t be a modular tack-on to the “more important” work of content-area education. Integrating character education into the academic curriculum means recognizing it as a tool to “promote academic learning and achievement.”

4. Professional Development
Teachers have hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of training in the best ways to help kids understand and become skilled in content areas like language arts, science, and math. The idea that we are qualified to teach character education because our own lives have (supposedly) turned out okay seems a little thin. Instead, effective character education programs invest in their teachers’ skills. Whatever character education program your school uses, Berkowitz and Bier show that it is most effective when teachers are trained to use it.

5. Providing Models and Mentors
“Many programs incorporate peer and adult role models (both live and literature based) and mentors to foster character development,” Berkowitz and Bier write. Every good writing class teaches the lesson “show, don’t tell,” meaning that a reader can best understand a fictional character through the character’s thoughts, words, and actions rather than through the writer’s blunt statements about the character. Berkowitz and Bier show that it’s the same with character education—like Sam the Eagle, we can tell our students all about character, but being inspired by the presence of character in action goes about a light-year further toward affecting students’ expressions of character after the bell rings.

Berkowitz and Bier show that character education, when done right, works, leading to long-lasting effects on the “head” (knowledge, thinking), “heart” (emotions, motivation), and “hand” (behavior, skills). Evidence also shows how to do it right . . . and, by extension, how to do it wrong. Using these guidelines can help students not only know character, but also feel it in a way that will help them carry character outside the classroom and into the hallways and homes where life happens.

Author Garth SundemGarth Sundem is a TED-Ed speaker and former contributor to the Science Channel. He blogs at GeekDad and PsychologyToday.com. He has been published in Scientific American, Huffington Post Science, Fast Company, Men’s Health, Esquire, The New York Times, Congressional Quarterly, and Publishers Weekly. Garth grew up on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife, two kids, and a pack of Labradors.

Free Spirit books by Garth Sundem:

Real Kids, Real Stories, Real ChangeReal Kids, Real Stories, Real Character


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The Dog Ate My Homework: How to Handle Students’ Excuses

By Shannon Anderson, author of Coasting Casey

The Dog Ate My Homework: How to Handle Students' Excuses“I’m sorry, but my uncle’s roommate’s brother’s fish died and I was too upset by the tragedy to do my homework.”

We’ve heard them all, haven’t we? How should we handle all of the excuses students use?

Although I do not assign a lot of homework, when I do, I have a purpose for assigning it and want students to do it. I get a lot of “I forgot to do it” and “we were too busy last night” comments at the beginning of the school year. How can we help students prioritize and set goals in a way that will set them up for success?

  1. The root of the excuse. Is there truth to their reason? On rare occasions we will need to be compassionate and extend a deadline. If the root reason is really because they didn’t want to do it, didn’t understand it, or just blew it off, then we need a “sit-down” to discuss our options.
  2. The sit-down. This is actually a regular conference held with students with the purpose of goal setting and discussing progress. (I meet with five students every day during independent reading time to do this. By the end of each week, I have met with all of my students.) This meeting is a great time to discuss and deal with some of those root reasons for goals not being met.
  3. Setting goals. I have a goal board in my room that has a spot for each student on it. They put sticky notes by their names with their current goals. If they meet a goal, the sticky is placed in the students’ binders on a “Personal Goals” page where they explain what strategies they used to achieve their goals.
  4. Growth spurts. When a student doesn’t meet a goal, we put that sticky in the binder on the “Growth Spurts” page. (A growth spurt is what we call our mistakes that we learn from.) Under the sticky note, a student writes a sentence or two about what he learned from the trial of the goal. He then creates a new goal with this in mind. Maybe he needs more time to accomplish it, maybe he needs better resources, or maybe he needs a completely different plan of action.

Students need to learn that we have to prioritize and be responsible. If they understand the importance of what they have been assigned to practice at home, it will be more meaningful. If something is important, kids will find a way; if it isn’t, they will find an excuse. I want my kids to become problem solvers and find a way. I help them with this through our regular weekly sit-downs.

Notice I said that I get a lot of excuses at the beginning of the school year? Once students realize that the excuses are not going to get them out of an assignment, the excuses start tapering off.

As I said before, I do not assign a lot of homework. I believe in giving my third graders 20 minutes of reading each night and an at-home project three times a year. I also assign self-paced multiplication/division fact mastery practice. I feel like my kids work hard enough in school all day and need their family, play, and rest time when they get home. Sometimes the reason students don’t get their homework done is because there is simply too much of it, and the kids need a break or really don’t have enough time to finish it all.

If we develop good relationships with our students, help them understand the importance of our expectations, only assign meaningful practice as homework, and help them set and make progress toward goals, they will be much more proactive and successful.

So the next time your student says that her wood-burning stove was out of wood and she had to sacrifice her homework to the fire so her family wouldn’t freeze to death, you may want to have a little sit-down and begin the process of goal setting and problem solving.

Shannon Anderson, author of Penelope PerfectShannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is a literacy coach, high ability coordinator, adjunct professor, and former first-grade teacher. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband Matt and their daughters Emily and Madison.

Free Spirit books by Shannon Anderson:

Coasting Casey Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone Wild

 


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Back-to-School Essentials

Back-to-School EssentialsThe end of summer is almost upon us and the first day of school is right around the corner. Free Spirit wants to help kids, teens, and educators start out their school year right with our back-to-school sale! Get 30% off* plus free shipping on hundreds of resources on a wide variety of helpful topics like social-emotional learning, character education, and bullying prevention and on our many books on teaching strategies. Use code BTS30 at checkout, and hurry! This offer ends August 31, 2016. Shop now!

*This offer excludes already discounted sets.

 


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Enter to win the Zach Rules series!

Enter to win the Zach Rules series!This month we’re giving away all three books in the Zach Rules series. Each book presents a single, simple story line involving everyday problems common with kids ages 5 to 8. Our lucky winner will receive Zach Apologizes, Zach Gets Frustrated, and Zach Makes Mistakes.

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how you help kids learn and practice problem-solving skills.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight, August 26, 2016.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around August 29, 2016, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.


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Posted in Early Childhood, Free Spirit News | Tagged , | 56 Comments