When students come up to me with bruised elbows, and scraped knees, I don’t respond the way teachers typically do.
I don’t say “oh, you poor dear, what happened?” or “that looks sore, let’s fix you right up”.
Instead, I say “and what would you like me to do?”
Now, to the uninformed, that may sound like I’m uncaring or I’m being dismissive, but in actual fact, I’m being extra caring.
Let me explain how.
Most adults jump in when children get hurt. They play nurse or doctor and rescue kids from their injuries.
But when boys and girls grow up with that happening al the time, they develop a learned helplessness that I simply can’t stand.
They run to grown ups with the most minor of complaints and constantly expect Mums, Dads and teachers to solve their problem for them.
A more caring adult would actually empower young ones to solve their own problems.
Here’s how I do it.
1. A child presents themselves at my feet, tears in eyes, scratch on arm/leg/back/nose.
2. Child whimpers “Miss Candle, I hurt myself!”
3. I say to said child “and what would you like me to do?”
4. Child looks shocked, having never been asked that question before.
5. I prompt… “Are you asking me if you can get some ice from the freezer?”…. “Or would you like to get yourself a band aid from the first aid kit?”
6. Child, catching on, nods. “Yes, can I get some ice please?”
7. Me: “Absolutely! Go ahead!”
What I particularly like about this approach is how it sets people up to be lifelong problem-solvers.
It trains them to go to a superior not just with an issue, but with a potential solution as well.
Jocelyn from empoweringlifeskills.com.au has developed a general set of steps to follow when kids go to adults for help:
1. Be calm. If a kid comes to you all hyped up or in a fit of tears, first instruct them to take some breaths. To blow their nose, wipe their eyes, wash their face, have a drink. Encourage them to calm themselves before beginning the process. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/yourbody-is-your-gps/
2. Show respect. In a school context, this means approaching the teacher only when that teacher is not already helping someone else, when that teacher is not busy in a conversation with another teacher. It means calling them by their name.
3. Say what happened. Kids are encouraged to, in a concise manner, give the background information you need in order to be properly informed. This might include what happened, where it happened, if another student was involved, and whether it was an accident or not.
4. Say what you tried. This is the empowering part. Kids are expected to have already tried some strategies before seeking assistance. They’re expected to have tried the first 4 steps of the High 5, for example, before reporting to their teacher. And the other important benefit of this step is that it stops kids from dobbing.
5. Ask for ideas. This means that the reason the child is approaching the adult is not for them to step in and to take over and to rescue. It’s simply for them to advise, to make suggestions, and to guide.
Now, imagine if all the youths of this generation were empowered like this by all of the adults in their lives?
When they grew up, they’d be thinkers and achievers. They’d have drive and initiative. They’d need no spoon-feeding, no hand-holding, no molly-coddling.
They’d be able to improvise and to find answers. They’d waste far less of their parents’ time and they’d grow into their own strength and resilience.
They’d contribute positively to teams, and not be a drain on others. They’d be cash-flow positive.
And, in this way, adults with learned helplessness would finally be eradicated.
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