Our daughter’s first grade teacher has a superpower.
Well, he probably has more than one, since he manages to care for, keep track of and somehow even teach over 20 six-year-olds all at once.
But the particular superpower we’re talking about is his ability to never, ever, like-seriously-not-ever yell at the kids. And yes, we absolutely consider this a superpower, since we only have three kids, yet find ourselves yelling at them all the time.
So to give our voices (and our kids’ ears) a break, we decided to ask this soft-spoken superhero for some pointers that we – and you – could use at home.
Meet Mr. Curry.
He’s a nice, calm, even-keeled kind of guy in general, so you might write off his exceptional classroom management abilities as simply part of his chill personality.
But while channeling his inner, elementary-school-teaching Matthew McConaughey certainly doesn’t hurt him any, Mr. Curry actually employs a number of specific, proactive strategies that keep his classroom running smoothly.
Luckily, those strategies can be easily adopted by us parents.
So here are Mr. Curry’s top five tips for staying calm, cool and collected – even when your kids are going crazy:
Turn down the volume
When the kids get louder, Mr. Curry actually gets quieter. We know, it sounds like there must have been a typo somewhere in that last sentence, because those are the times that many of us parents feel like we absolutely have to scream to be heard above the din. But we assure you, it’s accurate. Mr. Curry actually does this cool trick where he cups his hands around his mouth and speaks in a whisper, forcing the kids to immediately quiet down to hear what he’s saying.
Emphasize the positive
We’ve never heard Mr. Curry reprimand a child in front of the class. Instead, he often points out someone who is being a good example and gives them a compliment. Before you know it, the other kids begin to follow suit. Parents can follow Mr. Curry’s good example by emphasizing children’s positive behavior and ignoring the negative. For instance, if your child is having a problem with picky eating, avoid criticizing the behaviors you don’t like and give plenty of compliments when you see her doing good stuff like trying new things and choosing healthy foods. (Note: Try not to pit siblings against each other by pointing out one’s positives at the other’s expense. That’ll create a whole new set of negatives for you to deal with.)
Exercise the element of surprise
So if you can’t yell, how do you get your kid’s attention? According to Mr. Curry, a sure-fire way to get kids to listen is to do something unexpected, like:
- Sing a song – Use a well-timed instructional tune like “The Clean Up Song,” belt out your favorite Backstreet Boys hit (“I Want It That Way” seems appropriate more often than not, right?), or make up your own lyrics to fit any situation. It’ll be both attention grabbing and way more fun than yelling.
- Make some noise – Clapping, ringing a bell or making some other noise might just surprise your kids into listening just long enough to get your message across. Pick a relatively pleasant noise and everyone will prefer it to your usual shouting. Or choose a fart noise if your family is as childish as ours.
Check in with your child
When your kid is doing something she’s not supposed to, she usually knows it. For times like this, Mr. Curry discreetly asks, “Are you okay?”
Often this is enough to make the child quickly self-correct. If that doesn’t work, he follows it up with, “What are you supposed to be doing?” If the child knows the answer, she starts doing what he’s supposed to. If she doesn’t, Mr. Curry gives her the answer.
Either way, blammo – the problem is solved. It’s one of Mr. Curry’s subtlest tricks, but man does it work.
Adjust your own behavior
If you’re anything like us, you often find yourself yelling when your children are busy doing one thing and you want them to do another. So try to work with your kids instead of against them. Help your children finish whatever they’re focused on so they can more effectively shift gears. Or if things are heated, try doing a set of deep breaths together – pretty soon you and your children will be calmer and better prepared to work together. Mr. Curry often does this technique preemptively, coaching the kids through a few soothing breaths after recess to prepare them to sit and focus.
Mere mortals like us may not become 100% yelling free overnight, but we don’t have to.
Even Mr. Curry admits that he sometimes finds himself raising his voice. (That would be surprising for us to see – like walking in on the Incredible Hulk gently rubbing a purring kitten’s tummy.) But in his own words, “Every superhero has his kryptonite.”
So let’s just do our best to let some of these super-cool techniques sink in, and we’ll bring some much-needed peace and quiet to our homes before we know it!
Like this article?
You'll love our new book, Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind.
Order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Chicago Review Press!