A school teacher recently lamented to me the use of cell phones, iPads and other electronic gadgets by her students in class, despite the fact these are not permitted. She’s
tired of being the classroom cop. She’s also tired of trying to teach children who are sleep-deprived in part because of the time they spend with their electronic gadgets.
I suggested to her that she stop playing that role and instead take time to talk with her students about responsibility and show them that she trusts them to make the right choices for themselves.
Part of teaching, and parenting, is to show children the relationship between cause and effect, and to trust them to be able to handle the consequences of their choices.
Yes, in fact, your kids are smart enough. They’re smart enough to understand the relationship between choices and outcomes. They’re smart enough to learn from the logical consequences of the decisions they make.
It’s all straight-forward when you think about it.
Are you hungry? Eat.
Eat too much? Grow fat.
Exercise too little? Be physically unfit.
Play with gadgets in class? Fail to learn.
Fail to learn? Get bad grades.
Get bad grades? Repeat the term.
This is not a one-time chat, but rather an on-going effort to coach and educate. When you talk with them, share from your own experiences: the speeding ticket, the credit card late fee, the hangover. Show them that we all make poor choices now and again and yet we survive and get smarter.
Use the conversations to allow your kids to tell you what they know of logical outcomes. We all learn best when we identify our choices, consider their merits, make a decision, and experience the consequences.
The thing is, when you show your students or your own children that you trust them to make the right decisions for themselves, you change the nature of your relationship with them. Instead of allowing them to blame you and expecting you to come to their rescue, now you’ve opened the door for them to learn how to be responsible for themselves. Your relationship is no longer one of guardian and ward. Your role is to teach. Their role is to learn.
You’ve also opened the door for the inevitable next conversation. That’s the conversation you’ll have when your student or child does not make the best decision. That’s the conversation where you reinforce their responsibility and your trust in them by reminding them that they own the problem and it is a result of their choice. Then you ask them: “What will you do differently next time?”
That question will open the door to whole host of conversations, and a relationship built on mutual respect and trust.
Live Honest, Open and True
Decision-making is a skill we all need and like any skill, we develop it over time as the result of practice. It’s true that we learn to make good decisions by first making bad ones. The next time you’re tempted to fix a problem for someone, use the opportunity to start the conversation that will change your relationship.
Do your children struggle with making good choices? Tell me how you talk about it with them in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!