Here’s a statement that I’ve heard many times before: “I wonder how I’ll feel now that my child is in the same class as THAT child.” Another school year has begun, and as parents and students start to get to know classmates and find out more about them, there always seems to be this fear around “THAT child“. “THAT child” can be so many different kids:
Sometimes it’s a child with an identification: from ADHD to Autism. Sometimes it’s a child that screams, kicks, bites, or throws furniture. “That child” may hit, punch, or grab. “That child” likely does not use their “words” to solve problems.
It often seems as though “that child” needs and gets the most attention from the teacher.
“That child” may:
- need a different schedule
- have a different set of rules
- always have to be first in line
- need to sit on a chair instead of at the carpet
- need to avoid full-class activities altogether
- be different…and that’s okay.
For you see, here is something that I have not said enough when people have spoken to me about “that child”: maybe it’s time that we move from focusing on the “negative” to examining the “positive.”
Here are some ways that we can reframe this situation:
This child is helping others to:
- learn empathy
- learn to be patient
- learn that the teacher is not the only person that can help out in a classroom
- learn respect
- learn that everyone deserves a friend
- learn the value of a quiet voice and fewer words
- learn that every child deserves to be loved, and the different ways that we can show this love
- learn that there is no such thing as a “bad child,” and often there is another reason for the many different behaviours that we see
This student is someone’s brother, sister, peer, friend, and/or child. Also, this student is doing the very best job that they can. This student — like all students — deserves a positive space in the classroom. At one time or another, any child can be “that child”, and every child needs to know that they have the additional love and support to make it through a challenging time.
Imagine if we never thought about children as this child or that child, but just a child: each of whom needs us in different ways at different times, and teaches us different things along the way.
From now on, I will try to speak up more when I hear concerns about “THAT child”, as I think it’s time that we start removing the labels and focusing on what we can learn from everybody. Maybe it’s that child who will teach us the most about Self-Reg, and imagine how valuable that could be. How do we help change the dialogue around “THAT child”, and see the value in ALL children? As a new school year begins, I want to remain focused on how much we can learn from each child.
I Pledge: From now on, I will try to speak up more when I hear concerns about “THAT child”, as I think it’s time that we start removing the labels and focusing on what we can learn from everybody. Sara Riley thank you for those words , I will pledge.
Thanks Sara! This makes me so happy to read. I would love to hear about how this reframing changes people’s perception of kids and how it changes children’s perception of themselves. You’re making me think.
I pledge to stop and remove the labelling about that child and try to focus more on reframing the situation. Take time to look, listen and engage in conversation with peers about a child and what we can learn from a child to help them.
Thanks for the comment, Chris! I would love to hear about how this changes their behaviour and/or even a classroom dynamic. Please share. 🙂
This article speaks so dearly to me. I remember vividly that I was feeling very overwhelmed at some point hearing colleagues or parents say “that child” did this, “that child” is like that again and etc. I probably was in red brain at that moment, definitely combative mode, because to me “that child” is just a child like anyone else who needs love and a sense of safety. Thank you so much for this article, it truly resonates to me and my philosophy.
Thanks for your comment, Yi-Han! It’s interesting that you mentioned that you were probably in “red brain.” I wonder if I was also in red brain. I wonder how we could respond during these moments to maybe even help reframe THAT child for others. What do you think?
This article resonates with me, as a mother, grandmother, foster-parent, and as an ECE. Much of my time spent raising foster children and working in a child-care setting was spent advocating for the child as an individual Not the ” good” or “bad” labels that were put on the children.
I can totally relate to the ” That child” may… as well as The different ways to refrain from.
I pledge to continue to be a strong advocate in helping to lose the labels.
Thank you so much for your comment, Carolyn! It sounds like many children have been fortunate to have you as their advocate. This reminds me of one of my favourite TED Talks: every child does need a champion.
As a parent of “that child” this was beautiful to read, and touched me deeply. I love what you have written about what the child is teaching others. It would be an amazing world if every one was able to hear or read these words.
I was taught during my ECE diploma that there is no such thing as a bad child. I remember mentioning this to someone from an older generation and they scoffed at the idea. I explained that a child could make a bad choice, but that didn’t make them bad. To this day I have never told a child that they were “bad”
Thanks so much for your comment, Jennifer! I remember learning something similar in the Faculty of Education, and it really stops me when I’m responding to students (and even as I view them). It’s important to separate the behaviour from the child. And then from a Self-Reg perspective, it’s good to question “why” we’re seeing this behaviour in the first place. Jennifer, I hope that you can continue to share your story and your views with others. A little reminder to reframe our view of “that child” is always valuable in my opinion.
Thank you for sharing this. It really resonated with me. This quote “just a child: each of whom needs us in different ways at different times, and teaches us different things along the way” really spoke to me. Every child is a gift, and is unique and will need different things at different times. So important. Thank you
Thanks Katherine! I wish that we could all share more regularly what we learn from each child. This might make us view behaviour differently. What do you think?
I’m the parent of a child who behaved in ways that made everyone shift into red brain – parents, teachers, family, peers. It was absolutely rotten for us and I can only imagine what it was like for him.
Over the years, I’ve started reading and researching the why’s, which is why I love Self-Reg.
I have huge empathy for those kids who stand out the most in early childhood settings. I am always curious about the why’s and am getting better at unpacking that. Self-Reg will add another layer of knowledge to my tool kit. So far it is aligning perfectly with the other frameworks / theories/ practices I utilise, such a useful resource.
I hope I can influence the child care centres I work in so that they can shift their thinking and practise. Small steps through holding space and creating safety in my relationships with the adults who care for the kids.
Thanks for your comment, Jacinta! It sounds like both kids and adults are so lucky to work with you. I love how you mentioned the “why” here. It’s amazing how our perspective can change with just one little question … right?!
Learning the value of a quite voice and fewer words. This carries with it the ability to learn and evolve from, “That Child” to “Every Child” and it truly resonates with me. Thank you for helping build this awareness Aviva!
Thanks Afrah! I would be very curious to hear from you and others what this might actually look like in the home and/or classroom. I wonder if this might give all of us some different perspectives when it comes to kids.
This article is truly inspiring! Every child deserves the opportunity to be seen as a good kid.
This reminded me about the pygmalion effect, how we think about others influence our actions towards them impacting their beliefs about themselves and therefore their actions towards us.
Thanks Andrea! I completely agree. Self-Reg starts with us … right?!