Originally Posted: October 3, 2019

By: Melissa Verheyen, M.A, C.C.C

“Stop running.” “Please stay on the mat.” “Listen to the teacher.” “Sit on your bum.” “Keep your hands to yourself.” 

These are all familiar phrases in my repertoire and perhaps in yours as well. However, a few Sundays ago while I was helping in my local church, I was fresh off of some recent training that reignited my passion for engaging through a strengths-based position.

On this particular morning, I was working with a group of enthusiastic children and I was struggling to keep them focused and on-task. My recent practice with play, praise and coaching came to mind. Instead of repeatedly correcting the children in my care, I began to engage the children through play. At one point, a child was running circles around my group during our song time, though I noticed the child tried to jump when the song indicated. 

I had a choice. I could ask the child to stop running and reiterate the rules, a perfectly acceptable response. Or, I could intentionally focus on the behavior that promised possibility. I choose the latter. 

“I bet you can jump even higher the next time!” This challenge was met with surprise and delight and the child’s face lit up. The child watched the screen intently and jumped with all their might. Each time the child leaped they turned to look at me with a joyful grin. It was such a simple moment but changed the course of our morning together.

Knowing that the kids liked to run from room to room, I asked my group to creep like spiders and move like sloths. To say we had fun with this is an understatement! During our lesson time, I used social coaching to highlight the positive behaviors of the children which in turn resulted in more appropriate choices. The kids participated eagerly while I felt relieved from the pressure of constantly correcting and could instead invest my energy in engaging.

While most of these practices are familiar in some sense or another, when we’re not intentional, or at least when I’m not intentional, it can be easy to fall into a rut of ‘don’t’ commands, a litany of requests, and responding primarily to challenging behavior. For some of us praise, play and coaching are tips and tricks of the trade that need to be dusted off every once and a while, and for others of us, this may be new learning that we’re beginning to lean into. 

Wherever you may find yourself, if this resonates with you, you may be interested in participating in the Incredible Years Parent Program. 

Family Hope will be offering an Incredible Years® Parenting Program Beginning Monday, October 27, 2019 from 1pm-3pm. Part 1 of the program will run for 6 sessions and end by December 2, 2019. To register or for more information, please phone our office at (306) 694-4673 or email our office at admin@familyhope.ca.