Because Okello and Marian are staying with us in our home, they get to see all of our warts and wrinkles.  The warts and wrinkles seem a bit more profound when they are seen.  I realize in full colour, we are often thinking about “how to live together.”

As an example, last Wednesday was the day to teach my 3-year old about dinner manners.  I really front-loaded the expectations with conversation around what “polite looks like” at the mealtime. I can hear the echo of my instruction, “G, being polite at the table honours those around us.”  I have used the word “honour” with my children often.  It is a word that somehow captures for me how we have to believe and act in order to have relationship.

It’s not much different as I go into this week with student issues.  We have to think often about how to live together.  We have to know what being kind and “honouring” others means. We have to understand the signature of respectfulness.  What does it look like?  What does it feel like? How do we cultivate it in relationships with people we don’t prefer?

I think about what I did as a mom.  I think about some of my go-to teaching strategies.  I think about what my students need.

During the month of January, we are all re-tooling after the holidays.  Why?  So, we can live together in our homes and our learning communities with ease.

Here are some tools in my tool belt:

  1. Teach in times of non-conflict.  Wow!  This one makes an enormous difference for me.  I have to share and discuss with children well after we’re through the incident. The child can’t be activated emotionally.  Learning doesn’t happen then.
  2. Give them opportunities to try, decide, and solve.  The more we ask the children to own their own behaviour, the more responsive they will be to us.  I recently read a parenting blog describing the most powerful words you can say to a child, “You decide.”  Then, the child definitely knows they are responsible for the decisions and behaviours.
  3. Encourage! Encourage! Encourage!  Catching kids doing the ‘right’ thing or the desired behaviour and reinforcing it, isn’t just behaviourism, it is building a respectful relationship. We can’t always correct, teach, or reprimand.  We must encourage the heart.
  4. Frame everything in the positive.  Some of my readers already know about how my little one has gone through a hitting phase in preschool.  Well, now, instead of saying “no hitting,” we are talking a ton about her “gentle hands.”  Children need to know what TO do and what TO think.
  5. Children are children.  They can’t make the best decisions for themselves; they don’t even know what the best decisions are.  We have to set the boundaries on health and wellness and positive relationship for them.  Otherwise they will swallow the technology and try to live on it.  Parents, we have to set boundaries.
  6. Surprise them with love.  I sent gifts to my big kids this week.  Stuff they wanted or would like, cheering for some big achievements and encouraging others.  I think we need to remember to keep romancing our children to let them know we are ‘crazy’ about them!
  7. Keep what matters the most important.  Children need to know you love them more than anything else.  Even when they are going through a rough patch, we have to find ways to “fall more in love with them.”  I blogged about that last spring.

The children are not the centre of the universe and if we treat them as if they are and allow them to believe that, they will be difficult to deal with.  As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility to explicitly teach children how to live in community and create meaningful relationships.  That will be a lifelong journey.

What precisely does your child need to know right now about creating meaningful relationships? Maybe it is the power of words in a text or why it is important to use a fork at dinner or how to look for the best in others?  Is there a way you can choose a relaxed moment or two to discuss those ideas with them this week?  I bet they all can agree they want to have friends.  

Selfhood only goes so far and then we need belonging.  We need to take up the tools that help us build togetherness. We need to model our value for community and being together.

For the sake of the children,