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Inappropriate Behavior as a "Teachable Moment"

Two boys in a first grade classroom were arguing loudly over an item they both wanted to use at the same time. Their teacher approached them in a friendly way and said, “Boys, it sounds like you two are having a problem. Let’s talk it out.” One of the boys told his side of the story, his face still tense but his voice lowered to an “indoor” volume. The second boy listened and then, without any prompting, came up with a solution to which the first boy readily agreed. “Great job!” the teacher beamed. “See? You can talk it out!” A TEACHING PERSPECTIVE CAN PRODUCE AMAZING RESULTS WHEN KIDS BEHAVE INAPPROPRIATELY. If we as parents approach unwanted behavior with the idea that our job is to be the judge/jury/jailer, our first impulse may be to punish. But punishment doesn’t teach kids what they SHOULD be doing. It doesn’t expand kids’ problem-solving skills, teach them how to repair social mistakes, or improve their social perception. Fortunately, punishment isn’t the only available tool. WE CAN CHOOSE TO VIEW THE INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR AS A “TEACHABLE MOMENT.” When the teacher in the story above heard the two boys arguing, she spotted a chance to teach better social problem-solving. Inviting the boys to “talk it out” reminded them of their capacity to problem-solve without shouting or arguing. They saw that “talking it out” could work, and they were more likely to “talk it out” next time. A teaching perspective has room for punishment in some cases, but the focus is on helping kids learn the skills they need to behave appropriately. If we view inappropriate behavior as a learning opportunity for the child, new options open up. HERE ARE TEN CHOICES FOR MAKING THE MOST OF A TEACHABLE MOMENT:

1. Redirect the child toward a more appropriate activity.

2. Inform the child that what they’re doing “isn’t a good idea” or “isn’t safe.”

3. Give a friendly reminder about the rule the child needs to be following.

4. Guide the child through the steps of apologizing.

5. Ask the child to consider how others feel when she engages in the inappropriate behavior.

6. Help the child make amends to anyone negatively affected by the inappropriate behavior. Ask, “What can we do to help (name of person) feel better now?”

7. In the case of a conflict, prompt the children to “talk it out,” providing assistance as needed.

8. Give a new rule, if the situation wasn’t covered by the rules the child has already been taught.

9. Invite the child to think of a better to way to ask for what they want or need in the situation.


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