LEXINGTON PARK, Md. – Shauna King is a former principal, Positive Behavior Supports Coordinator, published author, and classroom teacher with over twenty years of experience. Now she helps teachers and parents across the nation on how to properly talk to their children and help motivate them using dialogue.
On May 27, 2022, Shauna King visited the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department, to host a conference in coordination with Partners for Success on how to use language to boost student motivation, engagement, and success. Admission was free for any parents or teachers that wanted to attend.
Partners for Success is a branch of St. Mary’s County Public Schools that helps support students and families.
The session included short lectures, group discussions, and structured lessons to help teach participants on using positive language to promote classroom and school success. Participants were also encouraged to share ideas and strategies with the group.
“I have a love for children, I’ve always enjoyed teaching and working with children because they’re so impressionable. I also remember the great teachers in my life that made an impression on me and wanted me to do my best,” King told TheBayNet.com. “That encouragement really made a difference in my life, I feel like it’s almost like to whom much is given, much is required. But I truly do have a love for working with children.”
King also explains how parents and teachers alike have been struggling being able to keep up with the changes in the world and being able to help their children along the way, and that was one of the big reasons they held the event. Within the past two years we have seen multiple changes within our daily lives, but especially for our children.
“The last two years have been so difficult, with the shifting from virtual to in person learning and generally what’s going on in the world. Parents had to take a very active role with their children, not that they weren’t before but it really has changed within the last couple of years,” says King. “So we were trying to support parents by showing them that there’s something within something that they do everyday which is talking to their children. We’ve heard parents that are like how do i get them to stop doing this, they get so frustrated over their school work, how do i motivate them, or my kid doesn’t want to do anything but be on their phone…So as opposed to the lecturing, or the yelling, that often does nothing but frustrate us and our children, what are some language strategies that we can use? I call it speaking to the heart of the child, which can help push them in the right direction but also be able to still set limits and rules.”
King likes to call herself a “yelling teacher in recovery”, she went on to explain how the children she worked with helped get her to make a change in the way she communicated with them.
“I taught middle school for the majority of my career and I remember I had a young lady who connected with me even though I was trying to play the tough teacher all of the time. Something in her was able to connect with me despite my bad behavior and we talked and connected. I learned some of the struggles that she was going through and she said to me one day, Ms. King, I’m proud of you. It really threw me, because I realized at that moment that I had never said anything that encouraged her. So from that particular moment I remember saying I was gonna do something different because if in my negative behavior I had such an impression on her, imagine if I was intentional on being positive with my words,” explained King. “But, even though there was a shift I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect. I’m a mother of two teenagers so there are times where I’m like wait, I just did a workshop on not yelling and I’m raising my voice at you. But I say it’s out of passion for wanting them to do the right thing. But we all have room to grow and I’m much more conscious of it. But some people learn their ways from their own families like the yelling and screaming, but is that the best model for our children today?”
Throughout the workshop parents and teachers were able to connect and share ideas with each other and reflect. They also learned how to “speak the language of the brain” which is a certain way to help give directions. King explains that instead of telling the child what you don’t want them to do, you should tell them what you want them to do.
King also explains how they went over talking with your child, not just to your child and how you should always make time to talk with your children everyday. Talking with your children is even more important in times of tragedy, such as the recent school shooting in Texas.
When speaking with your children about any tragedy that happens, always make sure you avoid appearing anxious or scared, stress that schools are safe and that the recent shooting was a rare occurrence, be mindful of the content that you use in your conversations in front of children, monitor social media use and limit viewing graphic news reports around children, and also seek support from a medical professional if needed.
“We often think that children are not paying attention, or that they don’t listen, but the truth is that they are listening to us,” says King. “The messages that we send repeatedly, the things that we say, to encourage them, to teach them, and to also help them through difficult times such as what’s going on right now, are very impressionable. I believe as adults, we can be intentional about planting seeds that can flourish in the right direction for our children.”
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