See a Child Differently and You’ll See a Different Child

See a Child Differently and You’ll See a Different Child

This was originally an article in the Self-Reg Parenting Magazine Vol 1 Issue 2.

Take a look at this picture and tell me whether there’s something in the duck’s bill:

Now take a look at this picture and tell me whether there is something in the rabbit’s mouth:

This phenomenon is called an “aspect-shift,” and it applies just as much to how we see kids as to how we see ambiguous visuals.

I can paint you a verbal picture of a child who is resisting working on a math problem. He comes up with a million excuses why he can’t do it, or gives up at the slightest hurdle, and all you see is a child who’s too lazy or unmotivated to work at math. But once you understand the Self-Reg distinction between lazy and limbic, and how, when a child’s “limbic brakes” are triggered they block his ability to concentrate, you’ll see a completely different child before your eyes.

But there’s one big difference between the two examples. In the case of the duck-rabbit, all that’s involved here is where you focus your gaze. But in the case of the child, the second you see a different child, everything about how you engage with that child changes in a split second.

Instead of being frustrated or annoyed, you see before you a child who is over-stressed. Questions suddenly occur to you that you would never have thought of when you saw him as lazy. For example:

  • Why did this problem or task over-stress him?
  • Was he overstressed to begin with, and if so, why?
  • What can you do to reduce his overall stress load?
  • What can you do to reduce the cognitive stress of the math problem?
  • What can you do to help him restore so that he has both the energy and the desire to tackle the problem again?

But there’s an even bigger difference between the two examples. In the case of the child, the second you see him differently everything about your body language changes. Your facial expression, eye gaze, tone of voice, gestures, posture all soften as a result of your aspect-shift. And the child picks up on all this: especially a child who has “gone Red Brain.” In an instant, he doesn’t just mirror but actually shares your calmness.

What’s involved here isn’t just a shift in how you perceive a child’s behaviour. A child responds intuitively to the change that he senses in you. This is the reason why, when you see a child differently, you quite literally see a different child.

By | 2019-02-11T17:24:22+00:00 February 5th, 2019|

6 Comments

  1. Riley Wood February 6, 2019 at 5:56 am - Reply

    I am so impressed with Shanker’s knowledge. He has opened my eyes as an educator to look at the WHY behind behaviors and understand them instead of manage them. When I was a first year teacher, I managed behaviors. When a student was walking around the classroom (trying to SR) I was scolding them to sit and listen. I didn’t understand why they were doing this? I caused more stress for myself and more stress for the student. How was that student ever supposed to learn when they were trying to manage their own tension and energy and have me add more stress by trying to control their behaviors?
    It breaks my heart as an educator that we learn all about reading comprehension methods, and how to write lesson plans in school, but don’t learn about this. As Shanker says,”In the case of the child, the second you see him differently everything about your body language changes. Your facial expression, eye gaze, tone of voice, gestures, posture all soften as a result of your aspect-shift. And the child picks up on all this: especially a child who has “gone Red Brain.” In an instant, he doesn’t just mirror but actually shares your calmness.” Understanding students will increase their ability to learn and your ability to teach. If we can understand students, shift how we see each one, and understand their behaviors, we can help them learn and create a better learning place for all.

    • Stuart Shanker February 15, 2019 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Message to Riley from all her students: THANKYOU!

  2. Favourite Links | Rousseau's ELP 1 February 6, 2019 at 9:26 am - Reply

    […] See A Child Differently And You See A Different Child – Some great food for thought in this recent blog post by Stuart Shanker. Definitely worth the read! […]

  3. Michelle Mayne February 10, 2019 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    This topic resonates with me – as an educator – but more so as a mom. I have three year old twin sons. They are literally an experiment in aspect shifts. They are polar opposites, and play off of each other. Most days I am aware of it, some days I feel too tired to assess their stress, and other days, I (internally) battle with their teachers because I see that my one son who is confident and curious, and sometimes downright annoying is being labelled resistant and challenging. Through words, criticism, and body language he is compared to his brother. While I know there are simple solutions for building their independence and autonomy from one another (working on some of those things), I am left thinking about this very formative time to shape and encourage their self-regulation, with this added complexity. I’m a twin myself, and know what this feels like. I’m left with two questions. 1) How do I shift what seems like a sustained aspect of my son (by myself, by his teachers) and 2) maybe part of the solution, How do I know what his stress language/currency is?

    • Stuart Shanker February 15, 2019 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Michelle, I hope it’s ok with you if we start using “Twins: An experiment in aspect shifts.” What a terrific line!

  4. […] See A Child Differently And You See A Different Child – Some great food for thought in this recent blog post by Stuart Shanker. Definitely worth the read! […]

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