Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brain Smart Transition Tips that Work: Motivation

Think about the last time you went to Walmart or your local department store.  

Did you get a warmer greeting from the people there than you do when you enter your home, classroom, or office?

I know for myself that I have to be very intentional about getting up from my desk or whatever task I am doing when my family comes home and go to them and make an meaningful connection.  Whether it's a simple hello and sticking around long enough to hear about their day or chatting while I make them a snack it makes a huge difference in our relationship when I do!

This is the last in a three part series about how to create Brain Smart transitions in your classroom or home.  If you haven't read the other two posts you can find them here.

So you've tried everything in the first two posts and you are STILL having trouble at certain times of day or with a particular child.  What to do now?

As you might have guessed by the looks of our introduction, it has something to do with relationships.  

The motivation to behave comes from being in relationship.  Traditionally, we thought that rules governed behavior.  What we know now is that it is actually relationships that cause a person to have the motivation to pay attention, follow directions, or control their impulses enough to inhibit the drive to push someone in line or continue playing when it is time to clean up.  

How many of you know the rule about the speed limit on the interstate near you?  Maybe the speed limit is 70 mph.  How many of you actually drive it?  BUT, when do you slow down?  About the time you see a cop sitting in the median or closing in behind you.  Why do you slow down?  Because you are afraid you'll get caught.  I have met very few people who actually drive the speed limit all the time just because it is the RULE.

I bet you've had an experience where a child behaves one way for school and differently at home.  Perhaps they behave differently for mom than they do for dad.  Don't even get me started on grandma.  If you're a grandma you know what I mean.  ;)

As we develop relationships with children by providing regular opportunities for eye contact, appropriate touch, playfulness, and presence we are actually wiring their brains for cooperation, impulse control, and attention.  You are literally creating neural connections in the brain!  How cool is that?  You're building BRAINS!

You may already have some rituals in your classroom or home where you make purposeful connections with your children.  Maybe you could use a few more ideas?

Dr. Becky Bailey has provides a book FULL of ideas to build these meaningful connections.  In her book, "I Love You Rituals" she shares a variety of songs, games, and finger plays that can help you get started.  

Watch this short video to help you understand that our need for connection never changes.  All ages, all stages, and everything in between...we were made for relationship!

As you see from the video, each little snip-it included those four essential ingredients:  eye contact, touch, presence, and playfulness.

Imagine that building these connections is like baking a cake.  If you bake a cake and leave out the eggs, you will get a product when you pull it out of the oven, but it certainly won't be as good as it would if the eggs were there!  The same is true with connecting activities!  When you make sure you get in all four ingredients you will get a much better product in the end!  Just remember that the goal is creating authentic relationships with children and you can't go wrong!   

Our goal as adults is to get to know our children well enough that we know how to connect with them in an attuned way.  Some connections could be done with a whole group of children.  Others will happen on an individual basis. You will find that some children need far more connection that their peers.  When a child has had their needs for safety and connection met at home, they come to school ready for learn.  They don't require the intensity as a child who has a history of trauma or disconnect in their home.

So when you consider how to transition your children throughout the day make sure you remember to take the time to connect!  You may think you don't have the time to connect, but I would say you don't have the time not to!

I have done I Love You Rituals with many children and one of their all time favorites is "Round and Round the Garden."  It is super sweet and fun!

I'm going to share two examples of how I use this I Love You Ritual to help with transitions, but the possibilities are only limited by your creativity and imagination!

The first example involves a time when the children are asked to make a transition to a large group or family activity such as story time.  
1. Once all the children arrive in the group have them stand up in a circle and hold hands.
2. Ask them if they've ever seen a garden.  If so, what grows in a garden?
3. Once they are done describing gardens, tell them you are going to pretend that there is a garden in the middle of the circle.
4. As you hold hands and say the chant you are going to walk slowly in a circle around the garden.
5. When you say, "One step, two steps..."  Slow down and really exaggerate your steps.  
6. Then tickle as many children as you can under the arm.  They may also tickle those around them gently.  Make sure you help them understand how to tickle gently.

They usually want to do it again and again!  It is a great way to get everyone organized into a circle and wire their brains for success!

The second example of how I use this ritual for a transition has to do with the end of a group activity.  Perhaps the children are finished with circle time and they need to go wash their hands for lunch.  You don't want to send all the children to the sink at the same time so you could use rituals to help you slowly release them to wash their hands.  
1.  Call up one child at a time and hold out both of your hands.  One hand represents the "bear" and the other hand represents the "mouse" (another I Love You Ritual).  Of course you could also use visuals of these animals as well.  
2.  Ask the child, "Do you want the bear or the mouse?
3.  Once they choose, you will do the ritual one time. 
  •   Hold the child's hand in your hand palm facing up.
  • Use your index finger to gently circle their palm while saying, "Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear."
  • As you say, "One step, two step..." slowly walk your fingers up their arm.
  • When it says, "Tickle under there!" you will tickle the child under the arm.  
  • Giggles and love abound!
4.  After the ritual, you may want the child to take a deep breath with you to relax their body.
4.  If you even want to take it a step further, you could ask the child to repeat back to you what they are going to go do.  (Go wash my hands and sit down at the table)
5.  It works like a charm!

You may have a hard time imagining that the children will sit and wait their turn, but you would be surprised!  If you are a safe and loving adult, they want nothing more than a "moment" with you!  You are making BIG investments when you take time to create those moments throughout your day!  It will pay big dividends in the long run!

Remember, when you do a ritual with a child and it comes from your heart you are throwing them a lifeline.  If they were sailors adrift at sea you could pull them safely back to the shore!

I hope you have found some helpful tips in this series about transitions that are Brain Smart.  If you have questions or would like to know more about Conscious Discipline get connected!  You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!  You are also welcome to email me directly through the blog for further information.  

As always, I wish you well!