Connection with Kids
In her book, The Good News about Bad Behavior, the author, Kathryn Lewis, identifies three steps that are taught in the Parent Encouragement Program. It will come as no surprise to counselors of all types that the first step is connection. Establishing rapport with a student is always the first necessary step before one can begin suggesting strategies or coping skills.
Research has consistently shown that babies and children need connection. Connection can mean physical touch. It can mean creating emotional rapport through conversation. It can even mean an understanding that is communicated through a look or gesture. Rules and expectations that are stated without a positive connection are usually unsuccessful. There must exist a desire to engage and a motivation to cooperate which is first created through connection.
How do you build a positive connection through encouraging interactions? Lewis refers to the Five Boston Basics which are a series of recommendations that grew out of decades of research on optimal child development. Each strategy builds a strong connection by laying the foundation for verbal and math skills, secure attachment, physical fitness and mental health. Here are the basics:
Maximize love and manage stress: Creating a loving environment does not mean minimizing or eliminating disappointment and failure. Instead teach kids to manage stress through modeling how you manage your own energy. Teach specific techniques such as understanding different perspectives and developing a calm mindset. Kids need to experience stress so they can learn how to handle it. Stress in an environment where kids feel they belong and are cared for becomes a teaching moment.
Talk, sing and point: Narrate life to help kids develop verbal skills and develop an understanding of the world around them. Language matters.
Count, group and compare: In this way you are laying the foundation for mathematics.
Explore through movement and play: Turn off the screens and encourage kids to be active through movement and unstructured play. Play is critical to developing problem solving skills, social skills and critical thinking skills. Make sure you don’t schedule it out of the day through too many structured activities.
Read and discuss stories: It’s not enough to set aside 15 minutes of reading time with children. Factor in time to discuss what happens in the story. What were the consequences of the character’s actions? What are the emotions expressed? What would you change about the beginning or the ending? Encourage kids to process the lessons learned in the story and apply them to their own life.
Many times as counselors we think that the best way to connect is to talk to kids, but using many of these other strategies for connecting might just create the better opportunity to establish connection and rapport. Once you establish connection, then you can move on to communication, the second step to good behavior.
In next week’s post learn about the second step to good behavior: Communication.