When you are in a discussion or an argument with someone, and they begin to raise their voice, how do you respond? You may subconsciously begin to match their tone. When harsh words are said to you, do you reply with kindness, or do you go into defense mode instead, finding ways to give them what they gave you?
How we interact with family, friends, a partner, a boss, co-workers, children, and strangers makes all the difference. As you walk down the street, how does a friendly smile from someone you’ve never seen before make you feel? Would you prefer them to grimace at you?
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.”
This quote holds very true for language. It is the key to unlocking every child’s potential, yet too many times adults belittle children. They punish them, make them feel inferior and scared. They teach them that harsh words and little compassion make for greatness. But they don’t.
Of course that is not always the case. There are plenty of adults, whether it be a family member or an educator, who light up when a child enters the room. They say their name, they give them a high-five, they ask them how their day is going. When things get tough, they don’t yell, but they teach them why the situation isn’t working. They praise them when they do well.
How adults speak to children, both inside and outside the classroom, can work both wonders and horrors on their ability to learn. It can instil confidence and curiosity or anger and timidness with equal ease. A powerful video showing the way kids’ interactions with adults may affect their education highlights the differences between the two.
Called Every Opportunity, the video, released by the Atlanta Speech School, shows a day at school from the perspective of one young student who begins his day with open arms and an eagerness to interact with his bus driver and teachers. His enthusiasm is not met well. Some adults don’t even acknowledge his cheerful hello. Another makes him feel bad for forgetting his lunch number. He feels discouraged in every situation he is in.
A press release from the school says the video “demonstrates how small changes in adult behavior, both inside and outside of the classroom, can enhance a child’s approach and her ability to learn.”
As adults, we can likely all agree that becoming impatient with children happens, especially if they are being disrespectful and uncooperative. And while it can feel like a challenge to keep your cool sometimes, the best way to shift your thoughts is to put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to be threatened? Made to feel bad for making a mistake? Approaching children with an angry voice and browbeating, and never showing them compassion, not only teaches children that they should interact with others in a similar way, but also causes them to hold back from greatness in the classroom.
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