Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bringing the Classroom Home - Week 4 - Questions to Get Your Kids Talking!

Manners are an important skill that children need to be taught. It's easy to see that we need to teach our children to say "please" and "thank you" but manners go much farther than that. We need to be teaching our children to wait outside of an elevator for the people who are on to get off first. We need to teach them to say things like "excuse me" when they pass gas or burp. But what manners are important to teach them first and which ones can you let slide until a little later?

Early manners, say at age 1 through age 2, would be using "please" and "thank you" and using greetings when they see someone they know. These are easy to model since we (should) do this multiple times every day.

By age 2 through 3, they are beginning to learn to share and using words more than gestures or actions. This is a good age to help them learn the words to use to share and interact with peers. "I don't like it when you push me" or "I'm playing with this right now" (if they already have the toy) or "may I play with that when you are done?" are good sentences to model for your child. At this age they probably won't be saying all of those words, but they can get the message across in their own way using their words and not hitting, pushing, biting or grabbing.

The manners that my daughter's preschool (ages 3-6) teachers focused on were health related manners like coughing into your elbow and using a tissue to blow your nose (not pick it). Other manners include saying "bless you" or asking "are you ok?" when a friend coughs. Preschool is good time to be working on these skills...and your preschool teachers will appreciate it!

Here is some of what she brought home this week:

By early elementary school children need to be using manners to interact with teachers and peers, following directions and help out around the house. They need to be taught how to meet and introduce friends and adults. They can clean up toys and help set the table.

Role playing is my favorite way to work on manners. We have had to role play lots of social skills at our house. Last school year, she had to work on the skill of greeting her friends. She had the habit of "hug-tackling" She would be so excited to see her friends she would run up to them, throwing her body onto them (usually shouting their name) and knock them to the ground. If they were prepared for it, they seemed to think it was pretty fun. However, when they had their back to her and she got them from behind, it was not a pleasant surprise. We had to teach her that hugs and greeting your friends are great things but they need to be done in an appropriate way. We taught her to use her words first and ask for hugs.

This week we've worked on answering questions using complete sentences. This seems like a very language based activity but for me it falls under the idea of having good manners - of being polite. When an adult asks you a question, "I doh' know?" or "nothin'" doesn't cut it. At the same time, I recently did a Child Development Seminar for the parents at her preschool and I got a lot of questions about how to get children to answer the age old question "What did you do at school today?"

One strategy that I've used with students for years is the "What did your eyes see today?" technique. When you ask a child to try to think back through their entire day and give a detailed report, it can be very overwhelming. Instead of asking an open ended question, ask a targeted question.

My favorites revolve around the 5 senses: 
   1. What did your eyes see?
    2. What did your ears hear?
    3. What did your hands feel?
   4. What did your nose smell?
   5. What did your mouth taste?

You can also add in some other targeted questions:
    6. What book did you read?
    7. What friend did you play with?
    8. Where did you go?
    9. Who came to visit your class?
   10. What song did you sing?

Check out my handout for a visual for the first 5 questions here.

By asking very targeted questions, your child can think back through their day and focus on finding an answer to that question. At first it's going to be challenging. And you may continue to get the "I doh' know" answers, but keep prompting and helping them to give an answer. The sooner they realize that you are going to keep pressing until they give you an answer, the faster those answers will come! Plus, then they'll be in the habit of answering you and not giving a non-answer.

Be prepared, though. One day at dinner or in the car, your child will ask you: "so, Mom, what did you do today?" Make sure you are ready to give an answer! Even if all you did was do the laundry, empty the dishwasher and change a few diapers, tell your child that. You could even make it exciting. "Oh, I washed the reds so you can wear your favorite top tomorrow. And I put the dishes away so we can put the dinner dishes into the dishwasher now." Expanding on what you did, why you did it and what the next result will be will also help them to give you more details when they are answering your questions.

Big sister has started asking "what did you learn today?" Yikes! Some days it's hard to come up with what I learned! But I think it through (a fast answer is not always best, it shows that we are really thinking about what to say), and come up with something that is true to share with my daughter.

On a side note, if your child really is having difficulty remembering what happened at school, talk with her teacher. If you have the information, it will be easier for you to ask targeted questions. Instead of "what did you sing today?" you could ask "Did you sing I'm a Little Tea Pot?" or you can give options "Did you go to music or art?" I am not a big fan of yes/no questions but sometimes you have to start there to get the ball rolling!

Enjoy talking with your child about their day. I hope my little tips will help you have a more meaningful conversation with your child!

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