by Huw Lloyd
As the country embarks on the largest school closure since the war, lots of parents are suddenly finding themselves having to educate their children at home, wondering what the difference between a phoneme and a fronted adverbial is or delving into the worlds of Pythagoras and ox bow lakes for the first time in years. It can be a daunting experience for many, even experienced teachers, teaching your own children, so how can we promote positive behaviour when educating at home?
My first tip would be to set out a routine, do the same things at the same times of the day so everyone knows what is expected of them, just don’t set yourself too much to do. It’s very easy to get carried away and plan a detailed timetable of hours and hours of education as if they were still at school, in reality this is not going to happen.
We all start off with the best of intentions but educating at home is hard work, so be realistic, plan time into your day where your children have space from you and you have space to clear your mind too.
The expression familiarity breads contempt is true here, even the most experienced and exceptional teachers would find teaching on a one to one, or one to two basis all day very tricky, intense and liable to cause conflicts leading to distressed behaviour. So, build in breaks and time for them to do activities on their own, get them outside too if you can, burn off some steam so they aren’t cooped up all day.
Once you have settled on your daily routine, put in up on the wall for all to see and act as reminder as to what you are going to do and to reduce arguments at key times of the day.
Praise & recognition
My second tip would be to always focus on the positive things you see from your child or children during this time, be that in the work they produce or the behaviour they display for you. Use lots of praise and recognition of the work and behaviour they show you. No one is ever too old to be appreciated. This may be presented as a sticker or reward chart or it might just be verbal acknowledgement in the moment.
Rather than paying your children to behave and do their school work, I’d suggest you avoid financial rewards that are attached to great efforts, after all they can’t go out to spend it. Connect it to family life, something simple, maybe first choice for movie time or which board game the family play later. It just needs to be something which shows your appreciation for their behaviour at this tricky time.
My third top tip would be if you do need to deliver a consequence for negative behaviour, make sure it is realistic, you are having to live under the same roof and have your movements restricted, grounding isn’t an option, that’s the norm. Don’t deliver consequences which are going to make your life difficult or that you cannot keep, No Xbox for a month might be something which trips off the tongue nicely, but after a period of time, you may be pining for them to have some time on the Xbox or whatever their favourite activity is.
A consequence for negative behaviour should never be more work, when I was at school I remember being punished by being made to do more writing, this made every time I had to write feel like a punishment, don’t put that negative imagery in your child’s head, the next time you ask them to write something whilst at home they will be thinking “what did I do wrong this time?”.
Whatever you choose as a consequence make sure you follow it through, if you say one thing and do another because it is difficult later, then the next time you have to deliver a consequence they will simply think it won’t happen again.
Tip four is always repair your relationship after a consequence, have a conversation with them and discuss the behaviour they displayed. Always make the conversation about the behaviour and not about them. Talk about the impact that the behaviour had on you, them and anyone else in the house, get them to see the effect it had. This conversation can be far more powerful than any sanction if done well.
When you have this conversation, try sitting next to them, not face to face, they will find it so much easier to talk this way. When you have this conversation, don’t pin everything on them saying the magic word “Sorry”, Elton John was wrong, its not the hardest word to say, but it is far harder to show which is the important bit.
For me, seeing a child repairing the damage their behaviour has done, or completing a task they wouldn’t normally do as way of recompense, is far more powerful than mumbled five letter word.
Kind & understanding
My final tip is to be kind and understanding to each other, these are strange and unsettling times for everyone. We are all on edge and our anxieties can manifest in different ways and with different behaviours. Take time within your family to talk things through and makes sure they understand everything which is going on in the world right now, give them a hug when they need one and space when they need it and just as importantly make sure they know its ok to give you a hug when you need one and the space that you need too.
Have fun together, enjoy each other’s company, who knows when we may have the opportunity to spend this amount of quality time with our families again.
I’d love to hear from you and how you are all getting on with your home learning, so please get in touch, I’m always here for guidance too. Just tweet me @PivotalHuw.
Good luck and Be Kind.