How Can I Help? Shifting from Judgemental to Curious

In the words of Whitney Houston, “I believe that children are our future…show them all the beauty they possess inside.” All too often, the magnificence of individuality is overshadowed by a need to meet the status quo. When a child exhibits behavior that is “problematic” or “difficult,” adults often assume the child is defiant. However, often, the child is unable to meet the requirements that are being asked of them. Instead of jumping to conclusions, adults should make an “aspect shift” and re-frame how they look at behaviors.

On her powerful graphic “Reframe the Behavior,” Kristin Wiens, a Special Education Inclusion Coach, created a way for adults to begin the process of viewing a child’s behavior from a “won’t” to a “can’t, yet.” By becoming “stress detectives” and changing the adult’s mindset from judgmental to curious, we can make way for a more effective method of working with children. Kristin notes that as this happens, adults begin changing their views and thoughts about the child. Adults then shift from saying a child is defiant to becoming curious about what stressors or lack of skills the child has as a reason for expectations not being met. This simple shift can have dramatic results in how adults approach children and how they view themselves.

As adults’ thoughts change, they then begin to respond differently to the child. Instead of thinking of a child as lazy or attention-seeking, we begin to ask questions such as “How can I help?” This leads the way to what Kristin calls “removing barriers.” “Find stressors, reduce them. Find unmet needs, meet them. Find skills deficits, teach them.” As Dr. Stuart Shanker said, “See a child differently, and you’ll see a different child.” This approach helps the child feel supported instead of being frustrated and feeling shame. This method supports a growth mindset, which leads to more confidence, better behavior, and more cooperation. It’s a win-win.

As a child development center, the SKILLZ program takes a whole-child approach inside and outside the classroom. By being knowledgeable about a multitude of factors that play into a child’s life experiences, the Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialists can provide the most encouragement possible while also helping to lay a strong foundation for each child. Armed with this expertise, they can genuinely be “stress detectives” and implement appropriate methods for each child that comes into the program. This knowledge is also shared with parents, creating the ultimate environment for healthy development.

When children aren’t living up to adults’ expectations, it’s important to remember that they are typically not doing it on purpose. By being mindful of developmental expectations, individual temperaments, varying learning styles, different personalities, etc., adults can play the role of detective. This will allow them to truly dig into what makes each child unique and how to help support them when things don’t go as expected.