It’s freezing outside and we are all having dreams of summer days spent poolside.
What if we could warm up these chilly days by saying or doing something kind and teaching our children that one small good choice can melt someone’s heart.
If you’ve attended one of my group presentations, then you have probably heard me talk about “pennies in my pocket”.
One of my former teaching positions was a pretty rough setting where I felt like all day long I was saying… Stop that! You can’t do that! Quit it! Enough! I was so busy policing the bad choices that I didn’t even recognize all the good things that were already happening in the classroom. My classroom aide in this setting was very wise and helped me to see that if I rewired my focus and put more of my energy into noticing the good choices I may change the whole classroom dynamic.
I decided I needed some help in this venture so I made up a system to train my brain to focus more on the positives. I would put 10 pennies in my pocket and every time I noticed a positive behavior (even the smallest bit of progress and believe me this was not an easy task), I would shift a penny to my other pocket. I had to move all ten pennies in one hour and this practice really forced me to change my approach. I was forced to find good stuff happening and overlook some of the negative behaviors in the process. I did this regularly for a month and soon my brain had a new habit. It began to focus first on what was good about my situation and then zero in on what needed fixing.
Not only was this new approach changing me, the kind words and positive feedback started to rewire my students’ brains too. Many of my students had been stuck in a negative storyline where they were the central character. They acted out the expected behavior which was getting them into tons of trouble. Bad choice making was their story and they were sticking to it…
Here’s how the the story would go…
They would act up,
I would call it out,
They would assume this is who they are (the bad kid who acted up) and then of course they would fulfill that role in the classroom one more time
I would call them out again
The cycle would continue.
This was who they were and who they had always been so they were staying “in character”. When I started to notice positive bits of progress instead of all the bad stuff, they suddenly had a new storyline. They were getting attention for sitting quietly instead of constantly getting my attention for calling out. They began to work to catch my attention in new and positive ways and the whole class dynamic began to shift.
One kind word or positive affirmation changed their whole day…. It warmed our classroom and we began to settle into a whole new dynamic. Try catching your child when they are “doing it right”. I know throughout their day there has to be a few times when they are making good choices… So notice these moments more than you notice the bad and maybe you will warm up your whole house!
By the way… you can pass this positive focus onto your kids too and have them start to point out what their siblings are doing right… We call it “tootling” at our house when we tootle instead of tattle and toot our brother or sister’s horn!