The power of simple but deep strategies when working with children.

I was sharing a few quick videos of my three and half year old doing somersaults in the water with family. She amazed us by nailing the backward somersault, and made us all laugh with her forward attempts that left her paddling frantically upside with a bottom pointed at the sky. After another hour of fun and play with her older siblings and Grandad she suddenly announced she could do it, and showed us a perfect forward somersault. My sister’s comment after watching the video “perseverance plus!” prompted me to think about a recent strategy we have been using as a family and that I’ve heard her use to coach herself to achieve a different skill just a few weeks ago.

Our next oldest boy has been struggling to go to school and to pull himself out of what we call ‘turning to stone’ when asked to do something he doesn’t want to do (he can stay motionless for more than 30 minutes!). A colleague sent me an excited email about a course she had just attended with rave reviews and I reached out to look into the Best Programs 4 Kids by Helen Davidson and Claire Orange. So very very glad that I did, and a huge thanks to you two amazing women. We all dived in to to their incredibly apt “stinkin versus super thinking” strategy and honestly the changes we have seen in our gorgeous boy in just a few short months has been incredible (along with a few other strategies including a record player bought for his birthday that suddenly showed how soothing 80s music is to him!)

My little girl collects new words like treasure so it is no surprise how quickly she started to call out her nine year old brother for using stinkin thinking — usually when he refused to do something she wanted. But one day as I watched her play in our little pool where she can just stand, I realised she was using the concept to encourage herself. I had thrown in some dive toys for the first time and suggested she see if she could get one. She had trouble and we talked through some ways to help her sink down. But then she moved on. A few minutes later she ducked down again — came up empty handed and said to herself “I can’t do it”. She stood staring at the water then said “no that’s stinkin thinking” and disappeared under again. She came up empty handed again and said again“no stinking thinking — super thinking”, disappeared kicking frantically to come up triumphantly clutching the toy.

For me the power of Helen and Claire’s thinking strategy is it’s simplicity and the power of showing children that they can direct their thoughts. For children there is something incredibly powerful in knowing that you have some control when life may actually feel a little out of control. For my littlest she sees it as a personal coaching strategy she uses to persevere and gain a new skill in her repertoire. That’s a life skill I want her to keep and build on! For schools embracing the Best programs 4 Kids or similar strategies you are helping children far more than can ever be seen on a standardised test of academic achievement.