Here are the only tips you will ever need for keeping other people’s children in line. Whether you’re dealing with one child, or a massive group of them. Relax! It is easy when you know how…
It all starts with you
First you have to believe that the children are going to do what you want them to do. Children have an innate ability to sense fear in an adult and run with it. If you have to fake this part it isn’t the end of the world. Prepare to give simple strong instructions and then move on, look the other way, distract yourself in some way so that you are not left there watching and waiting for the action to be completed.
You have to like the children
Children behave well for adults who clearly like them. If you don’t really like them you must hide it. Warmth and kindness in all your dealings with children will be rewarded with good behaviour.
However bad it might look at the beginning, smile openly and stay positive. The worst situations (teacher-wise) are wild and windy open spaces. Particularly after lunch when blood sugar is at its highest.
Make a noise to attract attention
This depends very much on where you are and how many children. If they are in a big space and there are a lot of them (more than 20, up to two or three hundred…) then you won’t be able to attract attention with just your voice unless you possess a very unusual talent for loud noise-making. Best that you have a whistle, or better still, something reasonably amusing like a conch shell or a set of cymbals. Something properly loud that doesn’t sound immediately like a telling off. The wrong whistle can do that, although in the end if it’s all you have then use it.
In a small space where you don’t need to be as loud, either bang a spoon on a surface or make an attempt at the ‘teacher’s erm’. This is the loud ‘ERM…’ you often hear teachers use before they give an instruction. It sounds natural, but isn’t at all and is designed to attract attention.
Keep going if the noise doesn’t work well enough
You will gain the attention of some of the children with your initial noise. If you want to use the noise again, then do so in a funny way. Toot a silly tune with the whistle or bang out a proper rhythmic effort with your spoon.
Usually the noise will have been enough to attract the attention of a good number of the group. So move to loud praise at this point – keeping a relaxed twinkly expression on your face, however fraught you may feel.
Loudly praise the first-movers
Ideally, use first names if you know them and yell out some strong and smiling praise to those who are doing what you have asked. Keep going and the rest will follow. Say thank yous and well dones and be generally gracious and positive. They will then all fall into line.
What about the one or two who don’t?
Remember to believe that they are about to do what you want, and stay kind and strongly positive. Make comments like this: ‘Brilliant diversion tactic Bernard – love the expression too! Come and join us and we’ll get started.’ or ‘Yes – that football is in the way somewhat. Why don’t you shove it under that chair and come and join us..’ Don’t let the tricky kids see that you are worried. Let them believe that they have simply misunderstood, or been temporarily distracted and warmly draw them in.
Avoid a stand-off…
Avoid a head-to-head stand-off at all costs. Once you are faced with an ‘I won’t!’ situation it is much harder to move on. The child is in front of an audience of their peers, who they are desperate to impress. So the trick is to offer them a way of doing what you want, without losing face.
Be quick, concise, and believe in yourself. Say something like, ‘Ok Bernard – it looks a bit squashed here – why don’t you move further to the back and sit there.’ Then turn quickly away and talk to someone else or do something else. Behind your back, he or she will move. Even if they make a small gesture towards doing the right thing, praise, smile kindly and distract quickly with some other movement or thought.
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