As an educator, I have countless interactions with children each day! Some of these interactions are simply fleeting moments where we exchange a sentence or two, while others are longer, such as lessons I teach. Either way, during the day I am given so many opportunities to show the children I see that they are valued. I know that God cares about the way in which I interact with kids, and I know that He has created each child in His image – children who have their own struggles, fears, home situations, and other difficulties. So even when I am tired or stressed about different things throughout the day, whenever I am with a child, I strive to put my own feelings aside and make sure they know they are cared for and valued.
5 Ways to Speak Worth Into a Child:
1 // Find better ways to say the words, “Good job.” This phrase is something that we teachers often notice we say sooo many times during the school day. But “Good job” is not very specific praise, and it can also start to sound repetitive and shallow. I was once given a handout called “100 Different Ways to Say Good Job,” which was really eye-opening. There are so many ways to encourage a child and praise their effort without saying, “Good job!” Small things like, “You are really starting to get this!” or “I’m so proud that you remembered that fact!” or “You are such a focused, hard-worker today!” can bring a smile to a child’s face while giving them specific clues as to why I am praising them! Then they know what behaviors or effort are considered wonderful!
2 // Use “I notice” statements. This tip is something I’ve been trying to incorporate into my interactions with kids each day. It’s a bit hard to describe/explain, but when we use a phrase that shows we are noticing things about the child (usually behavior), it speaks to them in a way that makes them feel cared about. It doesn’t need to be overdone, but simply finding something good or new to notice about a child can create a sense of attentiveness and trust between you two. Examples: “I notice you tied your own shoes today!” or “I noticed how you sat down quietly without me asking,” or “I notice you used your whisper-voice in our small group.” Even “I notice your hands are in fists and you seem frustrated. Is there something you could tell me about how you’re feeling?” uses that “I notice” statement to build understanding and concern.
3 // Smile! And smile with your eyes. People – even little children – can tell when there is no real warmth behind a smile. We all remember teachers of ours who never smiled or never exuded warmth. The smallest things can help kids feel like they have worth.
4 // Ask about their life. Ask about the little things – their siblings, what they were for Halloween, what they like to play outside at recess… I do this mostly during transition times, if we’re waiting for a couple more kids to join my line to leave their classroom…not during my lessons! As is true with adults too, asking questions about someone’s life makes a huge difference in your interactions with them. At different more vulnerable times of my life, there have been people who haven’t shown interest in getting to know me, and it can hurt! I trust that God can use those experiences to show me the power and importance of why I should reach out to others and ask about them – even kids!
5 // Have high standards. Seriously! Believing in what a child can accomplish and then maintaining high standards is a great way to show the child that you care about them and that they have worth. It sends a very important message. Think about the opposite situation: if you don’t believe that a child has value, then you won’t expect much of them at all, which makes them feel disregarded and discouraged. So even in the little things (like routines or cleanliness in the classroom) as well as the big things (acting kindly and responsibly), you can show a child that they have great worth because of what you expect of them!
Do you interact with children much? How do you strive to make a child feel valued and cared for?