Today, I am going to share a parenting strategy that has revolutionized our home and our homeschool. It is so simple that it seems almost silly to write about, but I know it will help other parents out there. Sometimes, the best ideas are the simplest ones.
Many years ago, long before I had children of my own, I volunteered with the AmeriCorps Jumpstart program. A few times each week, I would spend several hours in a Head Start classroom in Boston’s Chinatown. I would assist the teacher in the classroom before reading a heap of fantastic books with the little boy I was paired with for the school year.
Great teachers leave an impact, not only on their students but also on those around them. The teacher in this classroom was amazing for many reasons. It takes a special person to work with preschoolers, and it takes an incredible level of patience and love to work with preschoolers in a high-need community such as this one. This experience shaped my life and inspired me to pursue a career in urban education. I eventually went on to become a school psychologist and I worked in and around Boston where I continued to think of this amazing teacher often.
Nowadays, as a homeschooling parent, I still think of this teacher. She continues to impact me to this day.
Homeschooling through endless interruptions
I don’t know about you guys, but there are a lot of interruptions over here. My children are always talking over each other during meal time. When my husband gets home, they fight over who gets to tell which story. One can hardly get a word in!
Interruptions are not limited to dinner. They are constantly talking over each other while we are homeschooling. I ask one child a question and the other chimes in, and before you know it everyone is bickering.
All children are prone to interruptions, but some children have more difficulty with impulse control. Children who struggle with ADHD, SPD and other special needs can exhibit increased impulsivity than their age-mates.
As a mom to a child with sensory processing disorder, I am challenged with constant interruptions… but, thanks to an amazing teacher, I have found a fantastic strategy!
Stop interruptions with this simple trick
One night, after a particularly exhausting day of sibling squabbles, I had a flashback. I remembered how, years ago, I had watched that teacher effortlessly navigate interruptions in a large group of high-needs preschoolers.
How had she done this, you wonder?
She used a wooden spoon.
In order to teach her spirited students to take turns and listen to one another, she used the Talking Stick. The student who was holding the Talking Stick had the floor. All of the other students’ eyes were to be on the person holding the Talking Stick. When that student was finished speaking, he or she would pass the Talking Stick to a friend and that student would then have a turn. Such a simple idea and it worked!
The teachers out there are likely familiar with this simple strategy. I’ve seen it employed in classrooms many times since, but I first observed it in that Head Start classroom with that amazing teacher.
And, until that squabble-filled night, I hadn’t thought to use the Talking Stick while parenting.
Using the Talking Spoon in your home
The next morning, I told my children about the wonderful Talking Spoon and asked them if they would like to make one. They excitedly nodded their heads and so I grabbed an old wooden spoon, a bunch of paint, some glitter, and ribbon. I asked them to take turns decorating our “new” Talking Spoon.
And… guess what? It works!
We use our talking spoon during meals and homeschool lessons. It has helped my children to wait, to make eye contact, to listen, to learn. I have shared this parenting hack with friends who have had similar success and today I am sharing this trick with you!
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: What simple parenting trick has revolutionized your home lately? Share here!