There is a difference between giving directions and giving direction.
‣‣‣ Simon Sinek
Often we need to correct a behaviour in the midst of a family function, activity or program. The situation is busy and we find ourselves needing to address an issue. It’s not that the child is in trouble … there is no immediate problem or major expression of unacceptable behaviour. It’s just that they have strayed from the task assigned to them. Here’s how to give them a chance to get back on track before the situation escalates.
Practise the following routine:
- Use name (polite, respectful tone)
- Establish eye contact
• Tactically ignore non-verbal reactions such as annoyance or disrespect. Raise this as an issue later if it is concerning. It is not the main game at the moment. It is not the main game at the moment.
- Focus on the behaviour. Ask:
• “What are you doing?”
• Listen. If there is no reply, or an incorrect answer, comment:
• “Actually you are …”
• This step allows a child to own up to the truth of the situation, or
• Hearing you say what it is they are actually doing clarifies the situation. It gives the basis for the following exchange.
- Listen to the child’s responses/reactions
• They are sometimes a string of excuses, sometimes diversion tactics.
• Nod, listen thoughtfully, with empathy
- Partial acceptance.
In the event of excuses or distractions, concede by giving ‘partial acceptance’. Stay focused on the behaviour and not on the distractions. DO NOT enter a discussion or argument. Partial acceptance goes something like:
• “Maybe you are” or
• “Maybe so …”
- Ask, “And what are you supposed to be doing?”
- Listen for their response/reaction
• If it is more excuses, go through the little loop of 5 – 7 until they own up to what they are supposed to be doing.
- Give a clear directive
• Say, “OK, thank you … go ahead, I’ll check back with you soon.”
- Restore relationship
• After a few minutes, take a moment to affirm and encourage the desired behaviour.
Using a child’s name and gaining eye contact is a good routine worth teaching and rewarding. Eye contact is also worth giving in return for when a child respectfully uses your name and asks for your attention.