Mishnah Berurah Tiferet

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By: Tammy Sassoon

Whether our children want to listen to us or not is very much dependent upon whether they feel we trust them. This article addresses the adult’s role in building trust in a parent-child relationship.

Recently, a teacher asked me what she should do about the fact that her students were not listening to her. I asked her to give me a few examples. She said that there are some boys in her class who do not respond to the most basic of instructions, such as, “Take out your notebook,” or “start copying the board.” Some of the boys in her class, she told me, just feel like they can do whatever they want.

From her statement I understood that she was being judgmental of her students – which is a sure recipe for a lack of cooperation. She said, “They FEEL they can do what they want.” Yet, how can she possibly know what her students are thinking or feeling? She had a tone of annoyance in her voice. I knew that before I introduced her to behavioral interventions that might help herstudents, she needed to learn how to stop being judgmental of them.

Instead of saying, “They feel they can do as they wish,” she could have told me, “I’m noticing it’s hard for them to follow my instructions.”It’s so important to choose our terminology carefully, because human beings are very sensitive to being judged. We naturally avoid relationships where we feel people are judging us, or annoyed.

I asked this particular teacher if she was open to learning a different way of relating to her students. Shesaid, “yes.” We spoke by phone for about ten more minutes. Within a few days she reported back that her students were much more cooperative!

I asked the teacher how she responded to students who asked for extra privileges. Embarrassed, she admitted that she told them they didn’t deserve it. When one of her students asked if the whole class could learn outdoors because it was a nice day, she told them that she believed they wouldn’t be able to concentrate well outside.

We then discussed the idea that our relationship with anyone is dependent upon their perception of how we see them. If they think we assume that they have good intentions, they will crave closeness to us. If they think we think they have poor intentions they will crave distance from us. I have outlined below a few concrete statements that we should stay away from voicing when interacting with own children and others.

Examples of Language
that Creates Distrust:

“Why did you …?”

“You know you are supposed to….”

You should….”

Telling your spouse “She’s impossible” in relation to your child. If we feel negatively about a child, he or she will feel the vibes when we interact with them. If a child is struggling, move away from judgmental comments like, “She’s impossible,” and ask a question that’s geared towards a solution. (For example, saying to your husband, “Joey is having a very hard time accepting ‘no’ as an answer. Would you have any ideas that might help him?”)

Examples of Language
that Creates Trust:

After child makes a mistake, do not explain the rule he violated. (When you trust someone, the assumption is that they are perfectly capable of doing the right thing on their own, and just made a mistake.) If a consequence must follow because the rule was known in your home and broken, enforce it without explanation.

Then, if you want to teach your child something about that behavior, wait at least an hour (you could even wait a day), and say, “Joey, you probably didn’t realize it yesterday,but when ___ happened, it
made ___ (it very hard for your sister/someone feel bad.) Do you think you can try to work on ____?

Another version of “You didn’t realize” is, “You probably didn’t
mean to _____”

Smile daily at each child. It means, “I enjoy you.” You will havebetter cooperation if your children feel you enjoy them.

If your child doesn’t love his teacher, learn how to empower him so that he can cope with his feelings and still achieve positive outcomes in school. Stay tuned for next month’s article for more on this topic!

Tammy Sassoon is a behavioral therapist and parenting coach. She gives live workshops as well as “train by phone” telecourses to teachers, principals, therapists, and parents,
in order to help them gain compliance from even the most oppositional children.
She can be contacted through her website, www.tammysassoon.com.