Perfect for any adult interacting with children aged 4-13
This introductory workshop session will take you on a journey to explore the process and understand the strategies that will work for them. The session will involve some small group discussion, an interactive lecture and a handout with some tools to try at home
Have you seen your child taking on a role in a friendship that seems toxic to you? A friendship where they seem to wield all or none of the power? Perhaps a connection where they seem to accept pain as requisite and part of repeatedly being hurt.
The first step is to ask your child how they feel about the friendship with open questions that are not leading them to an answer;
“Would you rate your friendship with …. as the best friendship, a good friendship or a friendship that is okay?”
If they seem oblivious to the situation, you can ask yourself, how do I model relationships as the parent? Do they see me normalising staying in a painful relationship?
They may have witnessed this with a friendship or family relationship where you seem hurt, exhausted, angry or sad or perhaps the other people look that way after being with you? If that is the case, your child may have learnt that situation is normal. Think about how you can shift your spoken and body language to change your interactions and shift your child’s experience.
If your child tells you that the relationship is just okay; you have an opportunity to ask them more questions and record or document their answers:
What makes a good friend?
How do they show they are a good friend?
What makes a bad friend?
Share some stories about being a bad friend so they feel safe to share and DON’T judge them if they say something horrid.
HINT – Try to sit next to them so they can’t see your face during this session if you blanch. Also, remember to maintain your body language; with every stiffening of the shoulders, your child reads a change!
All of these strategies are about developing a regular check-in with you about the status of different friends. Using a concrete tool like Friendship Circles lets your child learn that it is normal for people to move around in their extent of closeness and trust. It also enables them to form clear guidelines for deciding how to move out of a friendship. These are excellent skills to help them stay safe in romantic relationships when they get older!
If your child is still playing with figurine toys or dolls, play with them and take on some characters to explore these roles from movies. Talk about what it felt like to be the character. Let them share honestly, and you do too! They want the authentic you.
Your goal is to build an ongoing conversation about friends. You are not telling them what to think but instead supporting them on a journey, you are taking together.
In support of developing this safe sharing space, consider reading some stories about friends together to discuss. Also, you can watch some movies together and discuss the types of friendship:
Lilo and Stitch (2002)
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Please add any other suggestions for movies or other media to help with discussing friendship in the comments below.
That moment that you watch your child left behind by a group, to stand alone without support. That is the moment that hurts our hearts the most.
Fear guides this response in us as parents. We fear a future of loneliness and pain, the one core fear we all share. The need for love and support from our community.
Our responses often reside in our bodies as records of moments of loneliness in our early childhood. They are then cemented with words to describe the body feeling as we get older.
We watch our child with our somatic/body awareness, feeling it in our own shoulders, stance, chin, stomach and legs. We feel them.
But do we?
Our children learn these somatic cues and body responses from the community around them and us. However, they might not associate them with the same experiences as us. They may not have the exact word that, like a spell, lead us to believe that feeling “alone” is inevitable.
We can support our children when we feel these feelings in our body that bring up that language by NOT responding with an assumption that we know. Every one of our children is forming and developing their way of being in the world. Respect that and let them create their own response. Allow them to feel their own way in the world and then give them the space to share or not share it with you. Be their comfort, not their author. Explore the different ways that they may see this scenario and let them find their way.
Provide comfort and belief in their resilience if you see them turn away from their friends.
One of the most debilitating words in the English language is “Lazy”. Adults will label a range of behaviours exhibited by children with the descriptor. Once the label is affixed, it remains for many children for the rest of their life, being passed on to their own children; a noxious cycle of judgement passed down generations.
The toxicity of “Lazy” is in the subtleness of the word. You can’t point at Lazy, it is not a uniform behaviour in every context and it is not able to be objectively defined. Instead, it sits in the hazy world of judgement that we are taught in our childhood by the angry adult tossing the word at us when we are engaged in a behaviour. For most of us, that behaviour is then labelled as “Lazy” in our minds, to emerge throughout our lives as part of our shame cycle.
So…what does it stick to?
The only consistent description for the term is that it is used when the labeller wants the labelled to do something other than what they are currently doing.
Stop being lazy! I asked you to do the washing up, and here you are reading a comic!
The “Lazy” label always requires a judgement that the opposing behaviour is somehow valueless…according to the labeller.
Accept your own needs!
The challenge for us as adults working with children is therefore to use our Acknowledgement Principles in this context:
#1 – Reciprocal Development– What is the priority for the developmental stage of the child versus your own? Children’s minds are generally primed for learning language, exploring social skills and taking on new systems of learning. They need time to process the vast amount of data they are taking in. Staring into space is often the most important part of a child processing information. It is absolutely NOT a waste of their time.
#2 – Non Exclusion– Just because it doesn’t seem important to you as the grown-up or the other person in this interaction, it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Explore the interests of your child and learn to honour those interests. When a child is determinedly focused on a computer game level, they are seeing it as their “work” and to stop in the middle is torturous! Expand your viewpoint to include their interests.
# 3 – Whole Of Life– When you are labelling a “Lazy” behaviour, how much of what you are judging comes from your own life story? Remember that your tone of voice, choice of language, body language and facial expressions, all communicate judgement to your child. What are you relegating to the “Lazy” label, and how will this impact on their life? Do you want them to think negatively about these behaviours for their whole life?
#4 – Face Your Shadow – It is time to integrate the behaviours that enrage you in the child in front of you. What seems so “Lazy” that it makes your blood boil? Is it because the job they were supposed to do will fall to you? Is it because you think their lack of eagerness to be responsible seems synonymous with their not caring? Note down what emerges for you and then use a shadow process to explore how this is a projection from your own safety strategies. Find out how to honour and integrate them.
#5 – Active Awareness– With all of this new insight, move aside your own story of “Lazy” and make way for what the child in front of you really needs; honesty about your own feelings. If you feel uncomfortable saying, “ Stop putting your interests ahead of my responsibilities, just do what I have told you to do immediately.”, then consider the actual value of the task you are delegating to the child. What do you need? What do they need? How can you both be comfortable with the outcome of this investigation?
Create your own word
Spend some time before speaking to your child to notice what they are doing. What does it look like? To facilitate the retiring of the Lazy word from our vocabulary, consider one of these alternatives to follow “Stop…”:
Resting. Reflecting. Thinking. Imagining. Playing. Talking. Socialising. Having fun.
Sit with how it feels when you actually say what you mean.
Personally I find stamping my foot like a toddler and allowing myself to say “It’s not fair” was the first step to realising that I too could choose to not wash-up right now, and instead, I could join my child watching the clouds go by. That would be important and valuable time spent bonding, imagining and experiencing joy.
Want more insight into the value of play?
To find out about the importance of play for grown-ups then have a read through this fascinating article from Research into Organisational Behaviour. I will also be featuring the importance of play soon, so keep connected to have access to the resources.
Learning and growing contexts for Atypical Learners and Thinkers
As a an adult working with children, it can be tempting to go into interactions with our young people thinking with assumptions of similarity. Parents assume themselves within their children and teachers will assume a “oneness” of the group, an average. Both of these positions are about starting from a place of adult comfort, which immediately closes us off, as educators to difference.
Discomfort can be an excellent starting place when working with young people, a search for uncertainty. This doesn’t mean removing our connection as similiar or together, it means starting from a place of curiosity and questioning.
As a parent, holding our newborn or a child who we have welcomed into our heart, we look for ourselves, to feel ” They are like me!” Teachers do the same thing. When they meet a new student they search for the connection point as a similarity. We all know that the moment of sameness can make the connection swift and seemingly rich. It is a hard choice to not follow that comfortable path.
The discomfort comes from a search for our tribe, for ease, for equilibrium as our default; drawn from a belief of our Self as compared to the “typical” we were proffered in our childhood. From that point, our benchmark is what we know, what we think, what we feel and when the child is not matching those expectations we identify them as “atypical”, different.
The fear of difference builds on our concrete experiences of not being part of the group, our behaviour making us stand out; the desperate loneliness of that moment. That core muddy Self-identity is a powerful challenge when working with atypical learners, our shadowed fear of expulsion and abandonment sees us project the same terror onto the little person in front of us.
They are just lazy
They are not trying hard enough
They just don’t care
Why can’t they just do what they are told
Why can’t they…
Because they are themselves, not us. Not you. You are identifying their challenging behaviours as alien to you, through the lens of negative judgement.
Differentiation and integration practice
To best support, the children in your orbit who exhibit sensory, emotional, cognitive, or physical challenges, explore the notion of integration of the shadowed Self or expelled Other, who was different. These early binary judgments are important to identify and accept as part of ourselves. The steps to achieve this will allow you to explore your projections from both frames as we will be using the Binary Disruption process. Before you start you will need:
Your Awakening Journal
A safe space in which to write
20-30 minutes uninterrupted
Stand and breathe deeply, in for 5 seconds and then out for 5 seconds – repeat five times.
If possible and safe, close your eyes and wrap your arms around yourself as you take these five breaths.
Keep two feet on the ground.
Hold yourself in this pose for 10 more breaths as you remember the most recent interchange with a challenging child, who demonstrated difference. Focus on the feelings their behaviour aroused in you.
Make yourself comfortable with some blank paper and a pen. You are going to finish the statements below, you MUST not edit your answers to be “nice” let yourself sit in your judgement state and record what arises first. Remember, you were a little child when you built these ways of seeing the world. This is your chance to unearth them.
1a Smart kids…
2a Good friends always…
3aTeachers and parents like kids who …
Now write the opposite
1bDumb kids …
2b Bad friends …
3b Teachers and parents don’t like kids who …
Review and Integrate
Now we will put these statements together and speak them aloud. Look at the groupings below and write the statements out again putting them together as below.
I am a smart kid and I …( answer 1a ) and ( answer 1b )
Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.
I am a good friend and I ( answer 2a ) and ( answer 2b)
Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.
Teachers and parents liked me and I am ( answer 3a ) and ( answer 3b )
Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.
In your Awakening Journal, note down anything that arose for you, discomfort in your body, a change in posture, opposing statements and internal argument.
This practice can be used for the statements that emerge when you are working with your atypical little person. If possible, when a judgment about them arises, go and write it down so you can use the Binary Disruption process to explore both sides of the story in your mind. This does not mean that you are trying to ignore behaviours that are not acceptable to you, it allows you to hold both possible behaviours and consciously choose one, instead of defaulting automatically.
For the sake of the child you are caring for, so that you can understand the challenges they face. Stay in awareness of the integrated whole that is both possibilities.