No Scolding Little Kids—Respond!

We all coach each other to not yell at the kids. We know that sending them large waves of emotion throws them off as much as it throws us off. And we all know that when we are tired we can default to raising our voices in order to be heard by little children. But what is going on with them that makes us shout in the first place?

“Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children. Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top. (They even have a special kiss for babies, where you put your nose against the cheek and sniff the skin.) The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.” Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice? “No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”

How Inuit Parents Teach Their Kids to Control Their Anger

They’re Upset About Something

Little children, and by analogy, all students, carry emotional issues that are hard to see and harder yet to fully address in classrooms. But make no mistake, happiness, sadness, and anger are all present in the lives of our young people over time. The mistake we adults make is to continue our teaching without addressing it. And this is a mistake because students are upset about something and it is muting their ability to learn. The follow up teaching mistake is either to ignore it, or to address it globally, or comprehensively. Most of the time, the most efficient solution is to just notice it and respond to it.

You Have to Figure Out What They Are Upset At

And to notice it, you have to figure out what is upsetting to our students. The key to working with young people is to notice their lives, especially their emotional and cognitive aspects, and to keep moving with those in mind. Surprisingly, most children want to be noticed for their life—not praised, not scolded, not judged, but just noticed. If you can figure this out, you are well on your way to leading them educationally, while balancing how you respond by not ignoring and not giving in to their lives.

Our youngest children and our oldest ones too need this kind of notice—a responsive teacher in a responsive classroom. In fact most adults need to be noticed as well. Schools are moving towards responsive models that include cognitive/academic progress, and, social-emotional progress. If I had to point to one thing that our diverse learners are bringing to school, it is their anger. We must figure a way not to yell at them, notice why they are angry and respond to them. Our progress on their learning depends on our ability to notice and respond in order to lead them forward.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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