In my early years of working in a middle school in the rough part of town, my colleagues and I did a lot of de-briefing. Every day there was a new slew of problems, and we often felt like we were “losing” the fight for these kids attention and respect.
I complained one day that I couldn’t even get my kids to sit down, let alone read or do anything else on the curriculum. I knew a lot of tricks and tips for gaining a kid’s compliance, but I was out of ideas.
I asked a coworker “I’ve tried everything! What can I say to these kids to get them to sit and listen!”
And he said “Well, did you say please?”
I was struck dumb. I’m not a rude person. But, after honest reflection, I had to confess, “No, I guess I didn’t”. I was terribly ashamed. I defended myself by saying “C’mon, these kids don’t listen to a word I say. Why would ‘please’ be any different?”
And he hit me with another great point: “Maybe they won’t listen. But then when you ask a second time, you can at least say ‘look, I asked you nicely…'”
His advice worked, and when it didn’t, I at least had a more clear conscience about my tactics.
It all sounds so simple and obvious I’m slightly embarrassed to share that it was a major “Aha!” moment for me. But it’s a good example of how tiny shifts in attitude and word choice can make a world of difference for you and your kids.
Like I tell the children “‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘sorry’ don’t cost you anything”, so use them liberally!