“We see things not as they are, but as we are.”
How many times in your child’s school career have you heard, “I hate my teacher” or “my teacher is so mean.” Most children at some point in their lives utter their frustrations about school and/or their teachers. Common reactions from parents to these statements are, “What did she/he do?”, “Don’t say such things” or “Being negative won’t solve your problems.” How do we teach our children to deal with challenging situations they may face in their school years? They have a right to express their feelings but require guidance in working through options to deal effectively with daily challenges. Our children need to view themselves as creative and resourceful problem solvers from an early age.
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In many areas of our school and work lives, we experience people we consider to be challenging. We all have different reactions to different personalities. One student may perceive a teacher as being challenging whereas another child may have a completely different experience. Everyone perceives events and situations through their own “lens”. Whether their perceptions are accurate or not is not the crucial part to examine; it is more about how they can learn to handle the situation when strong emotions are involved.
Effective Approaches to Assist Your Children
It is important that you allow your children to express themselves when they are frustrated by their teacher. Often when children feel heard and understood by their parents they are able to move forward and find strategies to deal with the situation. If a solution is needed to a problem, they may be more creative when they feel listened to. Children who do not feel listened to may become defensive and angry at the parent as well as the teacher.
After your child has expressed their frustrations and are calmer teach them how to see the situation from another perspective. Perhaps the teacher is dealing with a difficult life situation and is stressed or your child may not have noticed that she/he was treating all the children the same or their behaviour may have triggered the teachers’ reaction. Moreover, if a teacher gets annoyed at a child sometimes the child will feel angry, embarrassed or hurt. These negative feelings can overwhelm a child and consequently they misinterpret the situation. Sometimes it is necessary to gather information from the child when they are calmer, as well as from the teacher.
Suggesting that the child speak to the teacher the next day in order to clarify the problem is a good strategy to keeping the lines of communication open.
Encourage your child to ‘teach the teacher’; demonstrate to the teacher all of their wonderful qualities. Help your child make a list of things he or she is capable of and how they contribute to the school and classroom. This often helps the child feel better about themselves. Saying to your child “You and I know what your ability is, maybe we have to find ways that your teacher can see it too.”
Another approach to getting along with their teacher is to help the child find something in common with the teacher. For example, one student loved snowboarding and discovered that his teacher also enjoyed this sport. The student started asking the teacher questions about where she boarded, what kind of hills they like and then they shared some of their snowboarding experiences. This also helped the child view his teacher in a more positive light.
It is important not to speak badly about your child’s teacher in front of the child. Negative attitudes will only perpetuate a lack of motivation for your child and may increase the negative cycle.
Be careful not to always rescue your child. Appropriate consequences to misbehaviours help the child to learn from their mistakes. If the child and teacher are having a challenge resolving the issue at hand over several weeks then it is helpful to meet with the teacher to understand his/her perception.
If your child has the perception that a teacher dislikes him or her suggest the following experiment for two weeks. Every morning when your child awakens, he or she will say to themselves several times “my teacher likes me”. Encourage them to repeatedly say it at school as well. Going to school with this attitude may allow your child to see the positive things their teacher does.
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Parents can help their children learn valuable life skills about dealing with perceptions and challenges in their lives. Listening to them, expressing feelings, teaching them how to take different viewpoints about a situation and not always blaming others are important life lessons. Remember that in the heat of the moment they may not be able to learn these skills. The time to teach may be at a different time like driving together in the car or snuggling at bedtime. Be patient with your child and yourself. Take baby-steps as these skills are not always easy to learn. Hopefully these tips will give your children the self-confidence and responsibility they need to succeed in facing challenges in their school year and, thus, preparing themselves for similar situations throughout their lifetime.
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Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. New York: Avon, 1982.
Bettner, B.L. & Lew, Amy Raising Kids Who Can Newton Centre, MA: Connexions Press, 1989.