One of the first things I learned when going to school to be a teacher was that children cannot learn if they do not feel safe, and the safer the environment, the better able to behave the students will be.
This is a lesson that I have often pondered. Think about the last time you didn’t feel safe. How did you behave? Maybe you were a passenger in a car with a reckless driver. Did you get all tense and feel like yelling at them (or actually yell at them)? Can you imagine trying to learn algebra while having those feelings? Of course you couldn’t. It would take all of your energy to stay in your seat and be quiet.
But wait, teachers wouldn’t endanger their students unless they were one of those horrible ones you hear about on the news. So what does this mean? I have come to the conclusion that the feeling of safety and feeling of trust go hand in hand. The more your child or student trusts you and his environment, the more they can listen. Trust is something that is learned over time. Your child needs to trust not only that you won’t endanger them, but that you will provide for their needs (physically and emotionally), and they need to find you and their environment somewhat predictable.
Children thrive with organization and predictability. You don’t need to be a robot, but the more children can know what is about to happen, the more secure they feel. Does your child test you? It is because they want to see what will happen when they…use permanent maker on the wall, pinch their brother, or say no to your request. Why do they test you? Because they want to know what will happen in any situation they can think of to better predict what will happen next. They want to know because they feel safer when they know what comes next.
I’m sure you’ve heard the importance of consistency when dealing with your child. When they test several times, and each and every time they get the exact same outcome (because you’ve been consistent), they don’t need to test that situation any more. (unless of course the outcome is a desirable or tolerable for them…more on that in another post).
You can’t be predictable about everything. The world isn’t predictable about everything, and that is a good lesson to learn. However, be as predictable as you can be and when you and the world are not predictable, help your child process that. To a child, love and predictability mean safety, and safety means good behavior and a better ability to listen and learn new skills.
What do you do to make your child’s life predictable?