Have a Question? Need Parenting Advice? Ask Michael Hawton

Talk less, listen more

Author: Kristie Kellahan

Publication: Sydney Morning Herald, Business – Workplace relations – Education, August 20 2016

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Talking less and listening more is seen as a key to behavioural management. Photo: Simon Schluter

Could praising young children be doing them more harm than good? According to one educator, the recent trend to “notice the positive” and to publicly acknowledge good classroom behaviour might be breeding little narcissists.

A new online professional development course for early years educators, Talk Less, Listen More, aims to offer alternate strategies for behaviour management. Created by Parentshop, a Byron Bay-based training company, the course is registered with the NSW Board of Studies Teacher Education Standards (BOSTES). Developed by Michael Hawton, a psychologist, teacher and trainer, the course is claimed to offer a “complete solution” to manage behaviour.

“One of the biggest challenges facing educators is helping young children to develop self-control; something that gets better with age but which can also be taught by the people who care for them,” Hawton says. “Self-regulated learners tend to do better at school because they have better control over their emotions and they know how to manage setbacks.”

Hawton says the Talk Less, Listen More online course is necessary because it offers a simple yet effective way to manage behaviour.

“Current behaviour management approaches fall into two main camps: outside-in and inside out,” he says. “Outside-in programs use rewards and punishments to shape behaviour, but there have been recent studies to show that the wrong use of praise can lead children to stop trying when they are faced with a difficult task.

“Inside-out programs try to develop children’s emotional skills so that they can self-regulate. Children who are taught these skills tend to cope with adversity better than the ones who are not taught these skills.”

Hawton says his classroom experiences taught him that some children are better at managing their frustrations than others.

“The ability to manage frustration gets better with age and there are some easy steps early years educators can take to promote these skills in children,” he says. “Children need to be taught important social and emotional skills. Teachers, like parents, also need to set boundaries and teach children how to redirect their behaviour in more appropriate ways.

“Helping children to stay rational and make good choices, even while feeling frustrated, is a skill. Kids potentially have this type of ability from about four years old. Not only does it build their capacity to handle themselves emotionally… it’s a skill that can be taught.”

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