Helping children relate

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B Cirone colorByBill Cirone, Former Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

From coast to coastand around the globe, one of the most common questions parents ask children is,What did you do at school today? A very common frustration we hear voiced byparents is that theirchildren invariably respond with Nothing, or I dontknow, or I dont remember.

Its hard to dealwith because parents truly want to know the answer. They are very muchinterested in what goes on inside and outside the classroom what theirchildren are learning and what kinds ofinteractions they are having with otherstudents.

Through the years,parents have gotten creative. Some give their children time to relax and decompressafter school before asking questions, hoping that the space will provide therespite needed to prime thepump.

Others have changedthat initial question to one that seems more promising to start theconversation. They ask open-ended things like, How was your day? or Who madeyou laugh today? or What gamesdid you play at recess? Other variationsinclude, What was the best thing that happened today, or its converse, Whatwas the hardest thing that happened today? These questions are met withvaryingdegrees of success.

Sara Ackerman, aparent and teacher, recently wrote an article in theWashington Postabout a technique that finally worked with her own young daughter. She flippedthe script and asked, Do you want tohear about my day?

Her daughter saidyes and Ackerman then launched into a tale of meetings and photocopying, jammedprinters, lost keys, and funny comments from colleagues.

It worked. Herdaughter then took her turn telling her about the day that just ended.

Said Ackerman, Ithink my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do whenIm not with her.

It doesnt matterwhether youre a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a busdriver, or a stay-at-home parent, because its not about the minutiae of thework, she said. Its about sharing whatmakes us laugh and what bores us, themistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet.

Parents sometimesforget that the skill involved in relating an experience is not simple orinnate. Children need to learn how to do it. The best way for them to learn isto see how others do it and then imitate thebehavior. Parents can be the bestmodels of all for this purpose.

As Ackermanacknowledged, work is often the last thing parents want to talk about when theyget home. They think that a listing of the days details would bore anyone witha pulse, especially a youngperson. Maybe the child feels the same way. Thatswhy the game of sharing can be so effective.

Every child isdifferent and each needs a different approach, so this technique is certainlynot for everyone. But its worth a try in households where young children seemreluctant or unable to relate the detailsof their day. Sharing and modelingare easy ways for parents to help children learn how to relate, and its askill that could prove useful over a lifetime.

October 30, 2017

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From coast to coastand around the globe, one of the most common questions parents ask children is,What did you do at school today? A very common frustration we hear voiced byparents is that theirchildren invariably respond with Nothing, or I dontknow, or I dont remember.

Its hard to dealwith because parents truly want to know the answer. They are very muchinterested in what goes on inside and outside the classroom what theirchildren are learning and what kinds ofinteractions they are having with otherstudents.

Through the years,parents have gotten creative. Some give their children time to relax and decompressafter school before asking questions, hoping that the space will provide therespite needed to prime thepump.

Others have changedthat initial question to one that seems more promising to start theconversation. They ask open-ended things like, How was your day? or Who madeyou laugh today? or What gamesdid you play at recess? Other variationsinclude, What was the best thing that happened today, or its converse, Whatwas the hardest thing that happened today? These questions are met withvaryingdegrees of success.

Sara Ackerman, aparent and teacher, recently wrote an article in theWashington Postabout a technique that finally worked with her own young daughter. She flippedthe script and asked, Do you want tohear about my day?

Her daughter saidyes and Ackerman then launched into a tale of meetings and photocopying, jammedprinters, lost keys, and funny comments from colleagues.

It worked. Herdaughter then took her turn telling her about the day that just ended.

Said Ackerman, Ithink my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do whenIm not with her.

It doesnt matterwhether youre a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a busdriver, or a stay-at-home parent, because its not about the minutiae of thework, she said. Its about sharing whatmakes us laugh and what bores us, themistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet.

Parents sometimesforget that the skill involved in relating an experience is not simple orinnate. Children need to learn how to do it. The best way for them to learn isto see how others do it and then imitate thebehavior. Parents can be the bestmodels of all for this purpose.

As Ackermanacknowledged, work is often the last thing parents want to talk about when theyget home. They think that a listing of the days details would bore anyone witha pulse, especially a youngperson. Maybe the child feels the same way. Thatswhy the game of sharing can be so effective.

Every child isdifferent and each needs a different approach, so this technique is certainlynot for everyone. But its worth a try in households where young children seemreluctant or unable to relate the detailsof their day. Sharing and modelingare easy ways for parents to help children learn how to relate, and its askill that could prove useful over a lifetime.

Category: Editorial & columns Education & literacy Parent education Parenting 5-12 Parenting teens

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