Dear Families and Friends of Trinity,
Language is an adult’s most powerful tool, for words do more than deliver content. They also play a huge part in whether children develop self-control, build a sense of belonging, and gain academic and social skills and knowledge. This warm and thought-provoking reflection shows how you as parents can use words, tone, and actions to build a child’s sense of self. Your words and actions can damage or build. Children feel safe, respected, appreciated, and excited about learning. As an educator, I have come to realize that passion can get us into trouble and sometimes hinder us from finding the most meaningful words. Real-life anecdotes and concrete examples guide children to understand, and our modeling for children is what instills life-long lessons.
Good language habits include the use of:
- language to encourage vs. discourage
- language to help children envision success
- open-ended questions that stretch children’s thinking
- listening and silence skillfully so they actually have to think
- say what you mean and mean what you say
- giving brief, concrete instructions (more isn’t always better)
- asking children what they think?
This was a story I shared with the students last school year during Chapel: The Orange Story, Santa Monica Business Journal – May 1996 By Lee Jay Berman
Once upon a time, there was a mother who had two children. One day, the kids came to the mother fighting. There was one orange left in the house, and they both wanted it–typical of small children. What is a parent to do?
Some parents say that they would take the orange away and send the kids to their rooms for fighting. Most parents say that they would cut the orange in half, giving each child an equal share. Finally, the parents with more experience, anticipating a further argument over which half each child wants, would improvise. By allowing one child to carefully cut the orange in half, and then letting the other child choose the half s/he wants, parents give the incentive to the child who cuts the orange to be as fair as possible, since s/he suffers the loss if the halves are not equal. Seems fair?
Luckily, this particular mother is a mediator. She takes the orange from the crying children and asks them why they want it. When asked, one child expresses the desire to make orange juice. The other is baking muffins and needs to shave the peel into the recipe. The children, with the help of their mother, compromise. By allowing one to make all the juice he or she wants, giving the leftover peel to the other only once every drop of juice has been squeezed out of it, the other gets the entire peel intact. Both are therefore satisfied. In our society, we are raised to think that when there is a conflict, one person must win and the other must lose. We are not accustomed to working out a win-win solution; it is harder to do. Good use of language requires more effort; however, the outcome is usually worth it.
With warm regards,
Mark Ravelli, Head of School
Trinity Episcopal School
720 Tremont Street Galveston, TX 77550