That Sweet Child Said What?
Imagine a sunny weekday morning at 9:15 am. You’re in a school teaching a thirty minute yoga class to 23 children ages 2 – 6 years old. You’ve also got two other teachers in the room to assist during the class.
About 15 minutes into the class everyone is doing a forward bend when a three and a half year old calls out, “Miss Yoga! Look at Mary, she’s not doing the yoga pose.”
It was not unusual for this youngster to point out what the other children in the class are (or are not) doing. The irony that the child is also not doing the pose is floating meters above their head.
But this child goes a step further to report the infraction and then add, “She’s not doing it, we should throw Mary in the garbage.”
Yikes, that’s definitely not yogic talk.
The Teacher’s Classroom Management Dilemma
How does a teacher discourage or redirect the behaviour they don’t want in yoga class?
In the moment I made my choice to deal with the bold statement, and so did the two other teachers who were in the room. But the situation stuck with me. I resolved to get more options for the next time something like this happens. After talking to a few other teachers here are some of the most popular options.
5 Strategies for Dealing with Inappropriate Classroom Behaviour
- Ignore the Negative Behaviour: pretend it didn’t happen, don’t draw attention to it, and focus on the positive things the child is doing. Especially when the child is regularly getting a rise out of the teachers.
- Quick Correct: “We don’t say that in this classroom.” Or a simple frown or shaking your head “no” or another gesture to indicate this is not acceptable without disrupting the flow of the class.
- Describe Your Feelings and Why This is a Problem: “I’m upset to hear about throwing a person in the garbage. We don’t throw people in the garbage. The garbage is just for things because if you throw things in the garbage it doesn’t hurt them. If a person is put in the garbage then it may hurt their body and their feelings. If anyone ever says they are going to throw a person in the garbage, I don’t like it because garbage is not for people. Garbage is just for things.”
- Pretend the Child Intended to Do Something Positive: 3 1/2 year old children come from their heart more than their head. Assume the remark was not meant to hurt someone, but was a poor attempt to get attention and be involved. You could try a redirect saying: “Lets see if we can get everyone to join in by doing the yoga pose together.”
- Accept the Feeling But Stop the Unacceptable Behaviour: Consider responding with,”You really want everyone to do yoga, but the way to do that is to show them how much fun it is. Can you get your legs straight in this yoga pose?”
When a child utters an unacceptable statement, the teacher only has a moment to decide what to do.
It is when things are quiet, when twenty eyes are not watching you, and when you wonder if there is a better approach that a teacher can contemplate other options.
What kind of things do kids say or do that challenge you as a teacher/parent? If a child made this unacceptable statement around you, what response would you choose and why?
Please share your ideas in the comments.
Please check out our upcoming Kids Yoga Teacher Training. There are still a few spots left for the summer course in July.