Over the years I’ve discovered children are optimally open and receptive to direction, guidance, and learnings when all resistance and tensions are removed. This goes for adults too.
When all resistance is removed, we humans feel safe emotionally and physically which is fertile ground for learning super fast.
When I work with children or adults, my first goal is to remove all, if any resistance. As I do this, I establish a foundation of respect, understanding, and zero judgments. I tend to take Carl Rogers approach which is to look at clients with unconditional positive regard. This is not easy. It’s a practice worth pursuing, however, until you get good at it. I’ve been at it for 20+ years. It’s getting easier.
Let’s talk about resistance.
I’ve identified two major areas where resistance may be hiding out.
As a teacher or parent, knowing about this will save you years of battles and frustration.
The two areas are physical and emotional. Let’s talk about each area quickly.
Do you tower over the child unintentionally? This tends to make children feel very unsafe which causes them to subconsciously build a wall between you and them (resistance). This invisible wall takes energy to maintain which is draining for the child. The allocated energy directed to the wall now can’t be used to bond with the teacher or be directed to being open and receptive to any new learnings, guidance, coaching, etc.
I’ve found a foot or two away while getting down on a knee and looking up a little bit at them, works wonders! But never looking directly into their eyes. Soften your eyes and mostly look at their mouth as if you are reading lips with a pure intention of just wanting to understand best you can.
How do we smell?
Children are super sensitive to smell.
If our personal hygiene is not on point, children will be the first to pick up on it. They may not know it’s causing them discomfort but it can. Discomfort is the foundation of resistance.
Paying attention to strong scented colognes, perfumes or deodorants is a good idea too because it could trigger resistance.
How about the smell of the environment? This is worth taking a look at for sure.
Does the child feel safe and secure in their seat? Or, are they sitting in a chair that is too high off the ground and on some level they fear falling. Very important points to think about.
They should feel they are safe and in control of their surroundings.
How about the temperature of the room? This is an easy one to spot. Here’s a huge tip, discover it’s too hot or too cold, and address the issue before the child realizes what was the cause of their discomfort. This seems to send a signal to the child’s subconscious that you care deeply about them which serves as even more security and comfort.
Children tend to be super sensitive to sound.
How does your voice sound? Demanding? Gentle? Soft? Hard? How about when you are stressed?
Are you congruent? Meaning, does what you say match what you’re feeling and thinking? If not, this tends to cause tension in a child. Why is because we are sending mixed messages which tends to be confusing.
To get some amazing insights, record yourself talking for a period of time then listen to it a week later.
My rule of thumb on this one is to figure out the speed, pitch, and tone of the child’s voice and speak their language, i.e., match them a bit. This sends a message I am kind of like them and they are safe.
What else in the environment that could be a cause of the discomfort, tension, or resistance?
How about children being hungry, thirsty, tired, or in need of tissue because of a runny nose?
Anywhere that may cause tension or discomfort, try to handle it so it does not turn into resistance.
Let’s talk about the emotional piece.
Children can deal with sight discomforts if they are grounded safely in a healthy emotional environment.
How safe emotionally does this child feel is a question I have on auto-loop in my mind. I’m always checking the pulse on this one.
If children feel emotionally safe, they will trust you. Once trust is established, learning, leading, coaching, etc., is a breeze.
Do they feel like a burden? Or do they feel that you are so happy to be with them?
Do they have a fear of being judged? This fear is one of the biggest reasons children build walls of resistance. Judgment is poison for the soul.
Do they feel free emotionally to express themselves? If you go first with a funny song and fully let yourself be free, they will know it’s safe to do so too.
I know this is a lot to think about so let’s boil it down to something that is easy. Just one question.
How safe and secure does my child feel?
Ask this question and do something to get them to safe and secure before engaging fully.
The opposite of safe and secure breeds resistance.