Today I was leaving my son off at school. I only get to do this twice a week and it is a mix of emotions. Guilt, pride, and sometimes after a difficult weekend, relief. Today was a proud day. His playground assistant, Ruby, called me over. "I have to tell you what Jacob said to me yesterday" she said. I felt apprehension and curiosity all at once. Was this going to be one of those lovely stories I want to share on here or one that I want to file away at the back of my mind? Well, there's your clue. I'm sharing it!
"He told me I was doing a great job sweeping up the leaves and then he told me he loved me." She was so delighted, it had made her week. Jacob with all his social challenges often says exactly what he is thinking or acts out what he feels without any social filter. And while this can be embarrassing (I'm thinking of the time he "drummed" on a young woman's bottom in the queue at the shop because "it was just asking for it mum,") it can also be sweet and compassionate and make me awesomely proud. Like today.
Teaching our children to say the good things in their head, to positively reframe the not so nice things and to ignore the horrible things is an important life skill. And it begins with modelling it ourselves. The age old adage "praise the good and ignore the bad" is only two thirds of the story. The murky in-between ground where you have to find a way to positively reframe negative behaviours and feelings which are expressed by parents, other teachers and students, sometimes even by friends, is also important. If you dig deep enough you'll find that most of those expressed behaviours and feelings are borne out of disappointed expectations, shocked realisation, sullied dreams and broken trust. These are the conversations we need to have, the other side of the story that needs to be told in a way that helps children see that they are not bad, but that what they did made others feel bad. When we tell these stories we give them an opportunity to reclaim the good ground, to build expectations, trust, and hopes again.