We consistently observe that children love attention, but have we ever analyzed what’s underneath that obvious fact?Since the answer is in this brief article’s title, I’ll say no more on that. I will, though, emphasize the need to analyze the quality of our attention on children.
When our attention is complete and undivided, how do we imagine the impact will be on children’s feelings of being valued?If the answer to that question doesn’t come straightaway, can you reference your own childhood, and the quality of attention you received, to gain insight?
For uncountable reasons, attention on others cannot always be pure and undivided, but moments (yes, just moments) – every day – can and do have deeply nourishing impact … especially when those moments have nothing to do with situations that require corrections which, unfortunately, are the most common times our attention is undivided. Let’s see if we can stretch our pure and undivided attention ‘windows’ to include neutral, happy and constructive moments.
A few more important elements: words aren’t necessary. In fact, they’re sometimes a distraction, with their labeling and ‘boxing’ effects.Just be consistent and uncomplicated, then notice the effects over time.
There’s a world of difference between useful questions and useless questions.
What’s the difference? Useful questions help to focus attention on intended goals. Useless questions focus on the pain required to achieve those intended goals.
The illustration at the top of this article pretty clearly demonstrates how a useful question leads attention towards focusing on the long view for achieving intended goals. Focusing on the long view helps to keep attention away from immediate downsides and discomforts. When we help our students develop and maintain focus on the long view, we’re helping them to build growth mindset.
An unhelpful or even downright useless question focuses attention on short-term gains. And short term gains rarely, if ever, develop growth mindset.
It’s not just what we ask, but also HOW we ask …
When we ask one of these questions that we hope will help to develop growth mindset, let’s always remember that wordless communication has a significant effect. Can we ask useful questions with genuine respect? Can we ask useful questions with authentic openness to whatever answers the students have, so that openings are created for honest, 2-way discussions?
Whenever our students feel genuinely heard, like all human beings, they’re much more likely to also listen. (Maybe not right away, but if they get used to being heard -genuinely, with respect and undivided attention- they’ll be more open to genuinely, with respect and undivided attention, listening to others.)
Sometimes kids (little ones and big ones) have resistance to our direct efforts to grow their growth mindset. That’s when questions that are actually conversation starters, can help.
Conversation implies all kinds of POSITIVES: √ Respect for students’ perspective and problem solving abilities √ Interest in what they think and feel and deal with √ Engagement with their values, their priorities √ Trust in students’ intentions √ Listening, really listening
When kids receive quality attention, on a regular basis, to express themselves – especially with regard to their challenges – they get to directly experience that they matter. When they feel that all-important sense of mattering, then the effort it takes to overcome challenges is much more likely to matter, too.
Of course, listening to endless, random complaints and whining doesn’t have much value for anyone.
But respectful conversations that start with respectful questions … now that’s a different story. Try it, and let us know how it goes. We’d LOVE to hear your experiences.