Oh no! Is that my child!? (Previous Blog Post from one year ago)
Imagine this. You’re in a parent child class at The Little Gym and in your eyes ALL of the other kids are sitting in a circle, complying to the instructors direction, and having a grand ole time. But your eyes are rolling in the back of your head because YOUR child is wandering away, throwing mini temper tantrums, and definitely not complying with the instructor! If you’ve ever participated in a parent/child class you’ve probably all been there…..
A little bit of background first.
My wife and I opened our first location 3 years ago last January. Page had an extensive background in child development and gymnastics, which ultimately lead us to open The Little Gym. There are many great programs out there, but we were attracted to The Little Gym because of its spirited approach to teaching. The Little Gym philosophy targets the physical, social, cognitive, emotional, and perceptual aspects of childhood development. What makes The Little Gym unique is the approach we take as instructors. We believe in creating an environment that fosters the creative freedom of children, and one that allows them to learn at their own pace. We celebrate victories no matter how big or how small. We always have goals for children, but the goals are always different. Some might be targeted towards motor skills, and some might be targeted towards social goals. Regardless, we want the child to grow with our program.
I feel compelled to write my experience as a parent with a child enrolled in The Little Gym, but from the owners perspective.
You see, for the last two years we have been preaching everything TLG is, and how we attain our objectives, and why its so important to be involved in a program that allows kids to grow and develop, but in a fun way. We built our gym to 500 children a week based on our knowledge from previous positions, franchise training, and a steep learning curve that forces you to learn quick. It wasn’t until 18 months ago that we added a parental perspective to our knowledge with the birth of our first child, Logan.
My particular perspective is geared towards the parent/child age; because as parents that’s the only age group we have had our own child enrolled in.
We have been attending classes now for a few months, somewhat consistently, but defiantly not as consistent as we should be. There are times we are done with class and I think, “Oh my gosh. This is so embarrassing. My child darts towards the bars the second the opening circle starts. By the time I finally wrangle him back to the circle, its time for warm up, which he wants NO part of. All the other kids are staying with the group. Things go numb after the first few tantrums, and then its time to go home!” The funny thing is, I have had numerous parents experience this, and ask what to do. Half of the time they want to stick their head in a hole, and the other half want to stop coming to class. Can the owner of the gym really think like this? After seeing hundreds of kids succeed after routine sets in and they grow with the program, can I really contemplate not attending class? Well, it crossed my mind!
So I ask Miss Chase, my sister in law what to do. Now this is a hard conversation to predict because we trained her based on what we know, The Little Gym way. Her first point was, “are you kidding me, no ones even paying attention.” After teaching hundreds of classes, and watching a fair amount of children melt down, I now know this to be mostly true. As a teacher in class, there is so much going on, and so much to execute, that one child wandering around is really the true nature of a child. Weather they are wandering, not wanting to do it your way, or just simply refusing to participate, it encapsulates the true being of a child. If all children complied with everything, followed directions, and listened to everything you said, we would call them adults. And we all know there are adults out there that don’t comply with directions!
So, what’s my point? My point is that parents are mostly focused on their own child in class. They don’t have time to watch every movement of the other children. Second, as parents we can relate to just about any behavior we see in class, and hopefully laugh about it. We have all been there before and it’s not as bad as you think it is in the moment. Third, we must remind ourselves why we are here. Do we expect children to potty train in one day, do we expect children to learn multiplication in a week, and do we expect children to throw a baseball perfectly the first time we put a ball in their hands? NO!!!!
Coming full circle I must give myself the advice we have been giving to parents for the last few years. For the wandering child: they are still learning. Just because they aren’t with the group doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. They are observing, discovering a new world, and becoming independent in their own dependant way. As parents we must stay with the group as much as possible, keep a safe eye on our children, and continue to invite them back to the group time. Eventually they will learn its more fun to stay with the group, and that they get some built in exploration time later in class.
Two: routine and consistency. How can I expect routine and structure to set in if we don’t come to class every week! I own the gym and I am guilty of this! If I want to allow my child to grow, I must commit every week, and make up the classes I miss.
Three: exposure. We must let our children explore and develop. And we must let them be the leaders at times. However, we must expose them to things that might make them leery at first. I will say that Logan would scream bloody murder the first 5 times he saw the air track blow up. But after five times he stopped crying! Did he love it? No. But he defiantly didn’t mind it as much, and I bet he will love it eventually. This is why we must expose our children to the beam, the bars, and the rolls that might make them a little nervous. Why do we do this? Because we are good parents. My father is a child psychologist and has been for 35 years. He once said, “ Children need to face small problems growing up in order to be well adjusted and successful in the early years. If a kid gets skipped in line, doesn’t get the ball they want or trips and scrapes their knee, it is exposing them to numerous small problems they will face eventually. By experiencing these small setbacks, the kids can learn to adapt and eventually face broader, and more serious hurdles in their later years.”
Wrapping up I am greatful for this experience. My child is benefiting from class, and your children are benefiting because we can continue to grow as a gym with a new perspective. As the weeks go by we will be sure to update you on our experiences in class. I know it will pay off.
Mr. Kevin, The Little Gym of Mason
Which sounds better?
“I can’t stand it when you don’t put the clothes away!”
“I love it when you start the laundry- and even switch it, do you mind putting the clothes away next time too?”
At The Little Gym parents often tell us their kids listen to us so well or that we reach their child in a different way, and sometimes -that we got their child to do something that the parent couldn’t get them to do. Am I bragging, well, not really! If anything I’m glad that we have some great knowledge on how to speak to kids using some very simple theories.
SPF stands for Specific Positive Feedback
DP stands for Directive Practice
Lets analyze the laundry example in the beginning…
“I love it when you start the laundry- and even switch it.” This was the SPF. I was specific about something positive that was done- starting the laundry.
“do you mind putting the clothes away next time too?” This was the DP. I suggested that the task was done different the next time- putting the laundry away. (Well, I wasn’t doing the suggesting, my wife was! I never seem to make it to the dresser with the laundry)
At The Little Gym we use this concept to foster and further skill growth. If a child is doing a forward roll we try not to say, “Don’t roll over your neck like that,” or “good job, or “move your hands next time.” If we say “good job” they have no idea what they did well specifically, and will continue to do the roll their way. If we start off negatively and say “don’t do that” they will assume they did nothing well. The key is to start off saying something specific they did well, and then something they can work on next time.
Sounds simple enough, right? As simple as this concept sounds, implementation is a whole different story. Getting your mind to think like this is very difficult. It takes PRACTICE! IF you practice this, you WILL see some great results!
1) By always saying something positive, you will force yourself to always see something positive, thus look for something positive. I call this “bucket filling” too. If you say something positive you will fill their bucket, and your own bucket. If you say something negative you take away from their bucket. Starting off by saying something positive also reminds them on WHAT THEY DID WELL. You can’t remind kids and adults of this enough. Sounds simple, but man, its hard to do. Let me tell you this: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING POSITIVE. The other day I asked a child to do a handstand, and lets just say it didn’t resemble one that much, which is ok! I said, “That was a really creative way of doing a handstand, next time I want you to keep strong straight arms, and land on your feet!”
2) You will tweak, improve, and better whom you are speaking to. By giving Directive Practice you are saying something you want them to do better the next time. Don’t harp on how bad they did it, or if it wasn’t good enough- forward think to the future and ask them to try something different. They already know what they did well (because you gave them SPF) but now they need direction on how to improve!
3) You will become a better communicator! Whether you are talking to your child, your spouse, your parents, coworkers, nannies, or babysitters, you will deliver the good and the bad much better. Do you have a nanny who does great with the kids, but doesn’t pick up? How about, “Susie, I love how good you are with the kids, they adore you, do you think in the future you can pick up the toys after they go to bed?” She’s not going to be defensive after getting a nice compliment. Plus, how else is she going to know she wants you to pick up unless you tell her.
If you’ve read this far down I’m going to SPF/DP the reader, ready?! Thanks so much for reading, now go practice!!!
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