Consistency matters. If we want our kids to learn, parents and teachers need to be delivering the same consistent, key messages with kids at home and at school. Why so important? Elementary school kids literally hear every word you say. And they generally want to please. But if they get conflicting messages, they can’t please everyone. They might stop trying.
By middle school, however, we need to face the reality that tweens and teens don’t hear a lot of what adults say. It becomes even more essential to deliver simple, consistent key messages with kids so that when they tune in, the message sticks.
5 Key Messages with Kids
What Do You Think? All too often, adults tell but forget to ask and listen. It’s amazing what kids will tell you if they believe you are really listening. If you want them to care about learning (or anything) start by asking them what they care about.
Yes You Can. Quite simply, if you truly believe a child can succeed, he will believe it too. And he will succeed. But, it is absolutely critical that you believe it with all sincerity. Kids have an amazing ability to sniff out baloney.
Use Your Strengths. The world was not built on people making the most of their weaknesses. Yes, we all have need to work harder at times. While it’s not about ignoring difficulties, success is about using your strengths. Figure out your student’s strengths and make the most of them.
Mistakes Are Expected. This message needs to resonate with your actions, not just your words. This means really letting every student (even your strongest students) make mistakes, try again, and succeed over time. If we want students to rebound from mistakes, they must feel safe at home and at school. Otherwise, they might hide behind not trying. Avoid platitudes that they are unlikely to believe. “It’s good to make mistakes,” or “Don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes” might not resonate. This can be especially important if you are working with a perfectionist. Instead, be supportive and specific about what they can do next: “That was a good try, but let’s go back and see what you can do differently.”
What Do You Think? Yes, this is a repeat. But this key message with kids is so important it is worth repeating. Keep asking this question. Don’t be mistaken — it doesn’t mean kids are in charge. But it does mean that adults need to respect their feelings and opinions and take them into consideration.
Once parents and teachers are consistently delivering these key messages with kids, you’ll be amazed how results will follow. Go ahead. Try it and let us know how well it works.
That said, if students can’t listen it’s not fair to hold them responsible. If you are concerned about your child’s attention that comes first. Consider our free ADHD screener as a good objective and confidential first step.