You guys know my friend Amanda right? The amazing mom of four sweet boys who has BA in both elementary and childhood education AND an MS in childhood development AND is the brains behind the ultra-informative blog Not Just Cute. If you don’t, you definitely should.
Amanda is my real life parenting mentor and her ebook Parenting with Positive Guidance: Building Discipline from the Inside Out is pretty much my parenting bible. In a few weeks (September 12, 2012) Amanda will be offering, for the second time, an extension to her book in the form of a 4 week E-course. The course is based on the live class she teaches locally and I once again rushed to become an affiliate for the program.
I could go on and on as to why you should drop everything and sign up for this course, but instead I thought I’d turn the stage over to Amanda and let her demonstrate exactly the kind of concrete, usable information she has to offer.
Today she’s going to share with us the steps to implementing time-outs successfully and why they work. This is stuff I know we can all use…
When the USA Men’s Basketball team brings home the gold, no one is really surprised. The team is always a talent powerhouse. But I have to confess that my al-time favorite team member wasn’t one of the multi-million dollar players, but their coach. Coach Mike Krzyzewski (that’s not a spelling error) or Coach K as he’s referred to (for obvious reasons) is one remarkable man. His head coaching resume contains 4 NCAA championships, 11 Final Fours, and, at the time of this writing, two Olympic gold medals.
Great coaches can make all the difference. We as parents and teachers act as coaches as we help children prepare for, and navigate, the social world. When we really recognize that role and become intentional about it, we can make a big difference as well.
Coaches don’t just show up at game time. They must prepare their players. They run their athletes through hours of drills and training so that the skills they need in those critical minutes of play will be a natural response. Likewise, we as parents and teachers can help children practice social skills so that they can become habit. Practice might come in the form of role-playing, practicing scripts for challenging situations, even playing games. We can prepare children for situations before they arise by clearly explaining expectations. (“We’re going to go to the library. In the library you need to use a soft voice, and make sure your feet are walking.“)
Whether it’s a sport or social skills, a big part of coaching takes place before the critical moments. All great coaches know that preparation leads to success.
The coach could hope to do such a wonderful job preparing his players that he can just sit back and enjoy the game. However, coaches know that the actual game often presents challenges that are different from those they had prepared for, or that the players get caught up in the intensity and forget their basic skills. Sometimes players need reminders from the sideline. Sometimes, the team gets so off-course, the coach has to pause the game, and have a serious discussion. So he calls a time-out.
Parents and teachers coach in much the same way. Sometimes we give reminders from the sideline (“Remember to ask if you can have a turn when he’s done.“). Sometimes we have to ”call time-out” and have a more serious discussion.
Imagine a coach like Coach K calling a time-out and saying, “You guys aren’t playing very well.” Then he just sits all his players down on the bench while he leaves to make a phone call or clean up some spilled popcorn a few rows up. Then, when the 30 seconds alloted for that time-out have expired, he walks back to the team and says, “OK, you can go back out now. I want you to play better, OK?” Any spectator would say, “He’s not doing his job!”
Too often, the traditional time-out looks much like the ridiculous scenario I just described. We sit a child in “Time-Out” and somehow expect that the child’s behavior will change when she returns to play. Without coaching, the child is returning to play with the exact same set of skills she had when she went into time-out.
When Coach K calls a time-out, he gives his players a chance to catch their breath and refocus. He gives clear and concise directions and expectations. Then he sends his players back out with a plan.
When we call for a coaching time-out with children, we do much the same. We first give them a chance to step out of a charged situation, calm down, and refocus. Then we need to teach.
We have to be specific and clear as we socially coach children. If we don’t say what we need to see, children will have a difficult time making that conceptual leap on their own. In general, I encourage people to verbalize the thought process they would hope the child would follow. It sounds like a long process, and you will often feel like you are stating the obvious. But obvious to an adult is not always obvious to a child. Just like running basic drills, this coaching helps that internal process to become natural.
The skeleton of the social coaching process might look like this:
Describe what happened, and label feelings involved. “Karen, I noticed you’re throwing that playdough. I know you’re excited, but we can’t throw the playdough.”
Ask/Describe what would be a better choice. “When we throw the playdough, it gets smashed into the carpet and ruins the floor and the playdough. Where do you think we should play with the playdough? Yeah, the table is the best place to play with the playdough.”
If necessary, help the child make retribution. “Ok Karen, let’s get this playdough picked up and back onto the table where it belongs.”
Remind again about that better choice. “Remember to keep the playdough on the table this time.”
Return the child to play. Believe she can succeed. Be there to support.
Basketball coaches are given more than one time-out per game. Similarly, when a child stumbles again socially you might need to call another time-out again and repeat the process. Very young children usually need multiple learning opportunities to create independent skills. However, just as a coach will eventually make adjustments to help his team run more smoothly, if problems continue you may need to redirect. (“Karen, we’ve talked twice about keeping the playdough on the table and you are still choosing to throw it. It looks like you’re going to need to find another area to play for a while. Let’s go build something with the blocks.”)
Coach K says, “Discipline is doing what you are supposed to do in the best possible manner at the time you are supposed to do it.” With time, coaching, and practice, we can hope to be transformative coaches as well, and instill that same discipline in the children that we love and teach.
What did I tell you, pretty good stuff, right? I love how relatable and entertaining Amanda manages to be while still conveying truly useful information. To sign up for the full 4 week class, go here. I plan on sitting in for a refresher so I may just see you there!