Recently I had to write out some simple breathing exercises for teachers, and it suddenly struck me - why aren’t these more readily taught to young children?
Whilst I was writing and noting how most of us maintain a fairly shallow breathing pattern that takes place in the upper part of the ribcage and that fails to utilise full capacity, I realised that no-one had ever taught me how to breathe.
Recently there seems to have been a flush of television shows, radio programmes and press articles discussing the issue of children’s behaviour. Most of them putting forward the opinion that it is getting worse.
This got me thinking, what do we actually mean when we talk about good behaviour?
Well of course it is partly what you say, but it’s easy to underestimate the impact of the tone you use.
In almost all of the #H2SC interviews with children, and especially in the most recent couple I shared with you, great importance is placed on how adults speak to them. Words like nice, polite and kind come up over and over, with a dislike of shouting or harsh sounds and a preference for soft and lyrical tones.
Over my years of working in film and television, both in front of and behind the camera, I really came to learn the value of the storyboard.
When performing, it was an appreciated short cut through lots of words that enabled actor, director, cinematographer, art department…indeed the whole team to know what it was we were all aiming for.
Later on when I had moved into directing, despite struggling with the process of drafting my own storyboards (I’m not even slightly gifted in the drawing department) I was able to make myself sufficiently visually understood to achieve what was necessary.
One of our ‘How to Speak Child’ Facebook Community recently alerted me to this post, which highlights a stern rebuke from a teacher to little girl for writing her name in cursive script:
She asked me what I thought about it. Her concerns were primarily around how the teacher conveyed the message.
My reply at the time was as follows:
“Well my first reaction is SHE'S SEVEN YEARS OLD!! I totally agree with you that this is no tone to use, if the girl is a quiet type then it's just food to fuel a lack of confidence, disinterest in learning and limiting self beliefs. If the child is a 'naughty' girl then this is a perfect way to provoke with further ammunition. I know teaching can be frustrating, but when you don't get what you want, you haven't taught it right, and you yourself only learn by asking why. Personally I just don't think shouting at children works. I wonder if the teacher has, ever, asked the child why she persists...gently, without judgement. Find out why there is a problem and you're a whole lot closer to solving the problem.
Since you ask!
Also..I don't really see what the issue is....it says ‘Name’, she wrote her name - it doesn’t say ‘Please Print Name’”
To which the reply came:
“I totally agree. The fact that she writes her name so beautifully. I was never a tidy writer "wrote like a boy" according to some - but that was my way to get things done quick as I felt it was wasting my time! She must have learnt it somewhere and the fact that she has taken pride and time in it shows either a) a love of doing it or b) a fear of not doing it..... either way the way the teacher wrote the comment indicates considerable frustration but I believe not in a beneficial way to instruct the child.... wow.... all of that in little old me! Who'd have thought. It must have hit a nerve!”
Indeed - those put downs you receive in childhood persist through adulthood. The older I get, the more power I see they have. We all carry those judgements of not being good enough, and sadly an awful lot of us pass them on.
Some however are able to shrug them off brilliantly. A friend of mine tells a story of when she first started at school and the teacher handed every pupil in the class a piece of paper and asked them to write their name on it.
This is what my friend did:
Quite justifiably she was most put out when she got into trouble - she’d been following instructions perfectly.
Mel is now an artist and graphic designer…..so there!