The two most important factors in reaching kids

Happy Thursday!

Two stories today, as I’ve been thinking back on some of the successes I had as a preschool teacher.

I once helped a selectively mute girl find her voice.
(Selective mutism is when a child can speak, but only chooses to with trusted people.)
She had literally not spoken for six months in our classroom at that point, since the beginning of the school year.

I helped her find her voice with puppets, and the Three Billy Goes Gruff story.

Wendy really, really wanted to play with her friends! She wanted to be part of this puppet show.
But she was so scared.
Finally, drawn on by her own interest in being part of the story and playing with her friends, Wendy decided to give it a try.
It felt good to help her put on one of the puppets, be there with her to say the lines and to hear her repeat them.As I say she had literally not spoken for six months in our classroom at that point.
And she found her voice!
After that puppet show, Wendy opened up to us.

She often giggled, spoke with friends. She began sharing her thoughts with both children and adults in our classroom.
Each time she did my heart would sing.
I once helped a little boy come out of his own world and enter ours.

Henry just wanted things… to be the way that he wanted them. (I bet that sounds familiar : )

He wanted this SO badly.

If something wasn’t going his way, Henry would literally erupt. We saw tantrums and lashing out and very big feelings from him.

But when he and I played with play dough together, especially when a character I had created, Penelope Potato Head, showed herself and he could talk to her. Henry really identified with Penelope and we could tap into who he really was.
He’d ask her questions, listen to her answers, be silly and fun and loving with her.

And began to understand that we cannot all have things the way that we want them all the time.
That understanding was the beginning of a huge breakthrough for Henry.

Those times at the play dough table were such fun!

After that we saw Henry begin connecting with friends more often.

He was able to share his feelings, starting with his mom and then eventually with us at school.

Through play and conversation I literally helped Henry break out of his shell and be part of our community in the classroom.

It’s been such a joy to watch him go on to bigger and better things, graduating as his class valedictorian and going on to Emerson College here in Boston. (One of the benefits of teaching for so long: you get to watch your students grow up.)

Reaching kids is crucial because like us, they can feel isolated.
As if nothing that they’re doing is right.
If we don’t reach them, there is the danger that they will come to see their role in life negatively.

How do we reach them?

Through play, and conversation.

Those are the only two factors I’ve seen consistently work in all my years working with children and families.

If you look back at those success stories I shared, these are the two factors that made the difference in both cases.
And these are only two cases; as a preschool teacher for nine years, in an integrated classroom including children with autism, behavioral disorders, and extreme physical challenges – as well as more typical children like Henry and Wendy – I’m proud to say there were LOTS of successes.

Through play. And conversation.

I’m curious, how have you brought these two factors – play and conversation – into your parenting?
Have you found them helpful?

I’d love to hear from you on this, possibly the most important topic there is when raising kids.

Taking kids’ words seriously – really, deeply seriously – is how we connect with them and how they come to trust us.

If you’re finding that challenging at the moment, hit reply and let me know.
I’d love to talk with you and be helpful!

Cheers –
Karen